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OSHA Criticized for Delays in Issuing Workplace Safety Rules

People may expect that government entities move slowly when adopting new rules. Even so, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) takes more time than most government agencies when issuing new regulations. On average it takes OSHA almost eight years to adopt a new safety regulation, and during that time workers may be at risk for workplace accidents and injuries.

Compared to the Transportation Department, it takes two times as long to approve a new regulation at OSHA. The OSHA rulemaking process also takes 50 percent longer compared to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Twenty-five percent of OSHA's safety rules issued since 1981 have taken over 10 years to complete, some even longer. For example, it took OSHA 19 years to issue standards for scaffolding safety. During the almost ten years it took the agency to issue safety rules for construction cranes several people were killed in accidents.

OSHA officials say delays are caused by changing priorities, a higher standard of judicial review compared to other government agencies, and involvement and litigation from business groups.

The former director of Washington state's OSHA program explained, "We have created barriers based on false alarms, and the need now is to lower them so that worker protection can proceed again without delay." He added that, "It is no exaggeration to say that lives are at stake."

To increase efficiencies, one recommendation made by experts is that OSHA collaborate more with other government agencies to avoid duplicating work.

Source: Insurance Journal, "OSHA Hit for Taking Too Long to Adopt Workplace Safety Rules," Sam Hananel, April 23, 2012.

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