House Letter Expresses Concern Over OMB Review of PPE Rule

In a letter addressed to Susan Dudley, director of the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), California legislators Rep. George Miller and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard expressed concern over the fact that the White House sidestepped OSHA while reviewing the agency’s proposed employer-payment-for-PPE rule with officials from the Chamber of Commerce and the National Manufacturer’s Association.

According to Miller and Roybal-Allard’s letter, the OMB Website confirmed that OMB met with the two groups – who strongly oppose the rule – behind closed doors on Sept. 23, 2007, without an OSHA official present.

The two legislators condemned the act, calling it a violation of Executive Order 12866. The order requires that “when meeting with persons not employed by the executive branch of the Federal Government, OIRA officials must invite a representative from the issuing agency.”

“A strong comprehensive standard that codifies OSHA’s longstanding policy and practice that employers pay for safety equipment is necessary to protect the health and safety of American workers,” the legislators wrote in the letter. “It should not be weakened through exclusive backdoor meetings between OMB and industry representatives.”

OMB began reviewing the rule on Sept. 10, months after the AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union filed a lawsuit against the Department of Labor, claiming that it has been dragging its heels in promulgating the proposed standard, which would require employers to pay for the costs of worker PPE such as gloves, lifelines and face shields.

In response to the lawsuit, the Department of Labor agreed to issue the ruling in November, but according to the Executive Order 12866, it must still wait “until OMB completes its review and grants approval before publishing proposed and final rules.”

OSHA first announced the rule in 1997 and proposed it in 1999 after the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission concluded that OSHA's existing PPE standard could not be interpreted to require employers to pay for workers’ protective equipment. In 1999, OSHA promised to issue the final PPE rule in July 2000, but it missed that deadline – and every self-imposed deadline since.

For more information, see Chao: OSHA Will Issue PPE Rule by November.

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