Wednesday, May 04, 2005

OSHA: 'We're doing stuff, honest!'
After coming into its own as the black hole of government, OSHA is trying to repair its tarnished reputation by announcing when it actually does something for workers. BNA's Daily Report for Executives is reporting that an OSHA official addressed the American Occupational Health Conference to tout the agency's anemic record of progress. This part really stands out:
OSHA's Deputy Director of Standards and Guidance Jennifer Silk said crafting rules takes time, "but it's often slow because there are many checks and balances."

An OSHA rule goes through six main stages, Silk said--preliminary rulemaking activities, development of the proposed rule, publication of the proposed rule, analysis of the rulemaking record, development of the final rule, and publication of the final rule.

OSHA now spends more time on the preliminary development of a rule than on the rest of the process, Silk said. "The pre-proposal stage is years," she added.

There are several analytical requirements that must be met, Silk said, before the agency can promulgate a rule, including:

  • determination of significant risk;
  • economic feasibility and cost effectiveness analysis;
  • technological feasibility analysis;
  • compilation of information collection requirements;
  • establishment of a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel if there is impact on a significant number of small businesses; and
  • peer review of many of the rule's elements.

Because it is a new requirement under the so-called Data Quality Act (P.L. 106-554), the agency is still trying to figure out what elements of a rule need to be peer reviewed, Silk said. However, she added, large portions will certainly need review. Silk also noted that the SBREFA process also adds "quite a few months" to the rule making process.

Setting aside the political factors at play (specifically, a hostility to any protection of the public that imposes any costs on the corporate special interests that propelled the administration into power), OSHA's explanation for its failure to protect public health and safety in the workplace invites the conclusion that the rulemaking process needs significant improvement. Government has an important role to play in protecting the public health and safety, and that role includes identifying unmet needs and then doing something about them quickly enough that we can spare unnecessary harm. If our agencies are spending so much time on analyzing themselves that they can't get anything done to protect the public, then we have a truly inefficient government that needs to have many of its wasteful analytical requirements eliminated.

From OMB Watch