GAO Recommends OSHA, EPA Time Frames for Communication Product Delivery

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) analysis revealed that it took OSHA and EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) more than 5 and 3 years, respectively, to release guidances, brochures and other communication products addressing the potential hazards of exposure to asbestos in automotive brakes. The GAO report recommended that both agencies develop time frames to more quickly deliver such information to the public.

OSHA officials twice decided to not release drafts before the final posting because they needed more data to understand how pervasive asbestos is in brake products and to avoid causing unnecessary alarm, GAO said. And while it took OSHA longer to release its final product, the OPPTS process incorporated more steps to obtain input from external parties.

“It is important that communication products be issued in a timely manner,” the report read. “Timeliness is but one of a range of performance indicators that agencies may use to measure whether they are achieving their goals, as managers balance competing priorities. But timeliness seems especially relevant once an agency has determined that there is a need to communicate information about how people can protect themselves from health and safety hazards to which they might be exposed. “

GAO developed the report after “some parties” raised concerns that workers and general public were not aware that asbestos was still present in both old and replacement automotive parts. A series of events, news articles and research studies refocused attention on the issue of asbestos hazards in automotive brakes and prompted both agencies to disseminate information to the public.

In addition to recommending that OSHA and OPPTS develop time frames or benchmarks to ensure they deliver the products in a timely fashion, GAO also recommended that both agencies ensure that their key general processes for preparing communication products are documented and made available on their respective Web sites.

According to GAO, EPA generally agreed with its recommendations, but OSHA did not comment on the recommendations made in the report. To read the full report, visit http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08265.pdf.

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