A Modest Proposal: OSHA Releases Regulatory Agenda

When OSHA Administrator John Henshaw talks about his priorities for the agency, pushing new standards through OSHA's troubled rulemaking process does not make the list.

When Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Administrator John Henshaw talks about his priorities for the agency, pushing new standards through OSHA''s troubled rulemaking process does not make the list.

On Dec. 3, OSHA released the first regulatory agenda produced on his watch, and it appears to reflect the Bush administration''s conservative approach to rulemaking.

No major new regulations are listed in the final rule stage, and some important standards, like safety and health programs, are no longer on OSHA'' radar screen.

In an apparent departure from past practice, OSHA has listed as "completed actions" initiatives that have not resulted in new regulations. One example of this is metalworking fluids, the subject of a best practices guide issued by OSHA in November.

Ergonomics rulemaking was notable by its absence from the latest regulatory agenda. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao promised to release a "comprehensive approach" to ergonomics sometime in the fall, but had not yet done so as of early December.

Henshaw was asked about his rulemaking priorities at the Nov. 28 National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.

"I recognize the standard-setting process is a difficult process," he replied. "How we address that is going to require longer-term thinking; we will be addressing that." But Henshaw added that he wasn''t going to allow the glacial pace of OSHA rulemaking to stop him from taking other, non-regulatory steps to improve occupational safety and health.

At the time he was speaking, OSHA had not yet released its regulatory agenda, but Henshaw offered comments on it in a possible effort to head off criticism that the agency was attempting to do too little in the way of new rulemaking.

"My personal view is when we say we''re going to do something we gotta do it," said Henshaw. "Just putting something on the agenda and not doing it, doesn''t cut it."

by James Nash

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