It takes a lot for a federal agency to criticize another federal agency. Those guys and gals tend to stick together, probably because everyone else in the country is quick to criticize.
So while I knew the members and especially the chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board were becoming frustrated with OSHA’s less-than-motivated efforts toward creating a combustible dust standard, I was shocked when the CSB said it was considering slapping OSHA with an “unacceptable” rating for its response to CSB recommendations on that and other workplace safety and health concerns. And then for the board to actually do it during a public meeting in Washington this month; well, color me surprised.
CSB often makes recommendations to the companies, to the states where the companies operate, to industry organizations or organizations such as the National Fire Protection Association, to municipal governments and to OSHA. These recommendations frequently are adopted by the targeted organizations. OSHA, however, appears immune to CSB’s calls for action on combustible dust, fuel gas and process safety management.
I can’t speak for him in this case, but CSB Chairperson Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso has been very outspoken in interviews and in public statements about his frustration with OSHA’s (lack of) response to recommendations made by CSB following its investigations of chemical-related disasters. Earlier statements made by Moure-Eraso regarding CSB investigations praised the companies, states and organizations that adopted CSB’s recommendations, with no mention of the recommendations that were ignored by OSHA.
Recently, however, Moure-Eraso appears to be taking a page out of OSHA’s book on public shaming. He’s not just grumbling in private, or in an interview with me; he’s publicly calling OSHA to task on its lack of action – much like OSHA publicly shames via press releases the companies that have been cited and fined by the agency.
I’m glad somebody else is mad as hell for a change. While I know that some of the delay on standards that would save lives and prevent some of the most explosive tragedies experienced in U.S. workplaces is caused by federal regulations that require exhaustive review of costs and benefits, some of it is OSHA dragging its heels on standards that undoubtedly will be controversial and resource-intense.
To Moure-Eraso, the other members of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, and the CSB staff and investigators, I say, “Keep up the good work.” To OSHA, I’ll echo what the CSB had to say: “Unacceptable!”