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OSHA Slow to Act on Workplace Safety Rules

In a dynamic capitalist economy driven by constantly evolving technology, workplaces change rapidly. And so, in turn, do the types of dangers that employees face in the workplace.

Federal safety rules should keep up with these changes. Pennsylvania workplace injury attorneys and other safety advocates are concerned, however, that needed updates to the roles often lag years behind.

Auditors from the Government Accountability Office reported recently that the main federal agency that regulates workplace safety takes an average of eight years to put in place new safety regulations.

That's right: OSHA typically takes eight years to adopt new rules on workplace hazards such as toxic chemicals!

To be sure, getting approval on rules that apply nationwide can be politically challenging. But OSHA takes considerably longer than comparable safety regulation agencies.

A former director of the Washington state OSHA agency, Michael Silverstein, testified before Congress about the delays. He emphasized that the process for making rules on worker protection must improve. "It is no exaggeration to say that lives are at stake," he told a Senate committee.

For example, OSHA has been studying the health risks of silica dust since 1974. Yet the agency has not yet issued a proposed rule, even though silica dust exposure is a known cause of lung disease and cancer.

What steps can OSHA take to make safety rules in a more timely fashion? The agency might do well to prioritize its efforts on a few key dangers, rather than trying to tackle everything. OSHA could also collaborate more closely with other agencies on research relating to risks in the workplace.

Source: "OSHA Hit for Taking Too Long to Adopt Workplace Safety Rules," Sam Hananel, Insurance Journal, 4-23-12

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