Eliminating Regulation at OSHA

Will it come to a surprise to anyone that under the Bush administration the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the organization that is supposed to protect people from workplace injuries, has mainly eliminated regulations and made life easier for business? Stephen Labaton lays this out in a revealing New York Times article today (also available here). The piece quotes Dr. David Michaels, an occupational health expert at George Washington University: “The people at OSHA have no interest in running a regulatory agency. If they ever knew how to issue regulations, they’ve forgotten. The concern about protecting workers has gone out the window.”

And, big surprise, the article goes on to say, “Three of the biggest industries regulated by OSHA — transportation, agribusiness and construction — have given more than $630 million in political campaign contributions since 2000, with nearly three-quarters of that money going to Republicans.”

I bring this up here because repetitive motion disorders — carpal tunnel and the like — have gotten little attention from the agency. Nor has monitor radiation, or other issues that impact so many of us who are staring at screens for 10 or 12 hours a day. Quoting the article again, “In one of his first acts in office, Bush signed legislation repealing one of OSHA’s most-debated accomplishments during the Clinton administration, an ergonomics standard intended to reduce injuries to factory, construction and office workers from repetitive motions and lifting.”

OSHA is headed by Edwin Foulke, who used to work for a law firm that advised companies on how to avoid unionization.

House and Senate committees are holding OSHA oversight hearings this week.

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