Norwood Introduces Bill to Eradicate Use of Non-Consensus Standards

June 9, 2006
Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., introduced new legislation in response to concerns about the Department of Labor's use of non-consensus standards in crafting workplace health and safety regulations.

The bill titled the "Workplace Safety and Health Transparency Act" would do the following:

  • Prohibit OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration from incorporating by reference any finding, guideline, limit rule or regulation based on a determination from a non-consensus organization that does not conform to the Occupational Safety and Health Act definition of a consensus standard.
  • Prohibit OSHA from approving a state plan unless those standards adopted by reference in the plan are reached by a consensus.

"The ongoing practice by the Department of Labor where it incorporates standards set by outside standard-setting organizations is an issue of great interest, and frankly of continued concern to me," Norwood said. "It is time to rein in this practice, and our legislation would do just that."

Government development of safety standards typically involves examination to take into account the Data Quality Act, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, a small business impact analysis, stakeholder input and judicial review before being finalized. Using non-consensus standards, which may amount to little more than a literature review, could potentially legitimize ineffective standards, Norwood said.

At a hearing held by the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee back in April, Norwood "declared war on federal bureaucrats attempting to write U.S. law," a jab aimed at groups such as the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, which promulgates threshold limit values for chemical substances. Supporters of the non-consensus standards have argued that OSHA has not done enough to propagate new workplace safety regulations. (For an in-depth look at the April 27 hearing, read "Hearing Stirs Heated Debate Over Non-Consensus Standards.")

The subcommittee will be holding another hearing on the practice of using non-consensus standards and on Norwood's legislation on June 14.

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