November 27, 2013

OSHA’s Silica Proposal: Two Views

Editor’s Note: In keeping with the requirement that IPDs ventilate all substantive regulatory perspectives, we present below the views on OSHA’s planned silica exposure regulation of two distinguished academicians, Robert R. M. Verchick and Michael L. Marlow. CRE’s view is that White House oversight of OSHA’s regulatory proposal needs to be understood within the historical context of the centralized regulatory review function, see Proper and Desirable Intervention by the President in Agency Rulemaking.

Michael L. Marlow, Mercatus Center/George Mason University (complete comment available here.)

Public Interest Comment to OSHA (November 27, 2013)


OSHA has failed to make a strong and compelling case that it knows best how to protect workers from silica exposure. It has not developed what an optimal regulation might look like, overstated market failure arguments for regulation, ignored compliance issues, and greatly overestimated benefits while underestimating costs associated with the proposed regulation. OSHA needs to consider a wider set of alternatives within a model of optimal worker safety that realistically takes compliance into account and that can be quantitatively assessed through conventional benefit-cost analysis.

OSHA has failed to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the benefits and costs of its proposed regulations, thus providing little confidence that it has identified the most efficient or effective option to improve public health. OSHA is required by OMB guidelines to analyze options that are not currently legal so as to inform the president and Congress that there are more efficient ways of solving a particular social problem than was envisioned by Congress. This is because Congress does not perform an economic impact analysis prior to passing laws. If a more efficient option can be identified, the laws can and should be changed to reflect that option. OSHA had the chance to provide lawmakers and the workers they seek to protect with analysis that could determine optimal outcomes for health and employment; instead, OSHA came up with an unsupported and unrealistic “just” level of silica exposure that threatens to be both onerous and unenforceable.

Robert R. M. Verchick,  Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law (complete article available here)

Concluding two paragraphs from Dangerous Dust and Deadly Delay: OSHA’s Proposed Silica Rule published November 26, 2013 on the Penn Program of Regulation’s RegBlog

Just imagine if the system had worked and that OIRA had released OSHA’s silica rule by the ninety-day deadline. The updated protections could have taken effect two years earlier. According to OSHA’s numbers, that change would have saved 1,400 lives, prevented 3,200 cases of painful silicosis, and produced up to $10 billion in overall benefits.

Bill Ellis’s widow, Berlita Ellis, is even more succinct: “I work two jobs to make ends meet,” she says in the video, “I’m on Social Security and, of course, I have a pension from Bill. But it’s still very hard to make ends meet. And I think anything that can be done to help people safety-wise and health-wise should be done anywhere you work.”


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