According to certain pundits, a “regulatory hurricane” is brewing. Yet when it comes to health and safety protections for workers, there has been a regulatory drought. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has produced regulations during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies at a slower rate than in any other period in the agency’s history, While OSHA was once able to develop a rule in less than a year, the process now exceeds six years on average.
Five pending OSHA standards have been subject to delays ranging from 4 to 31 years. Analyzing OSHA’s risk assessment data, we found that eliminating the delays would have prevented more than 100,000 serious injuries, more than 10,000 cases of occupational illness and hundreds of worker fatalities. Additionally, there are hundreds of chemicals to which workers can be exposed at levels known to be unsafe, but which OSHA has not yet begun to address. Further, protections are lacking for such common hazards as heat stroke, repetitive motion injuries and workplace violence.