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Is America’s workplace safety framework broken? Rules, Part 1

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2014 | Workplace Safety |

As we have noted multiple times on this blog, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the biggest allies workers have in ensuring that they remain safe on the job. However, this agency can only remain as effective as it’s allowed to be.

David Michaels, head of OSHA, recently discussed some of the major issues that exist in the agency today. He indicates that the current rulemaking and regulatory structure does not resemble what it was originally intended to look like. Ultimately, this has had a detrimental impact on workplace safety.

In order to understand Michaels’ frustrations, it may be best to understand the standards process. Today, to update regulations for business, the federal agency must undertake very intensive studies. This is to meet standards established by the courts. Rules cannot become updated in a very efficient fashion because the current practice is very draining on resources.

When OSHA was created in the 1970s, this standard-making process was a lot different. Under this initial vision, the courts weren’t as heavily involved and federal safety officials could update standards more efficient.

As a result of the current state of rulemaking at OSHA, it’s become a tedious process to implement safety standards that seem straightforward and logical. Workers are put in harm’s way because certain standards cannot be enforced.

The breakdown in the regulatory structure of OSHA has had many side effects — and not all of them are specifically health related. In fact, David Michaels has posited the idea that poverty is connected to unsafe workplaces. This, of course, is a very broad issue that will be discussed in our next blog post.

Source: NBC News, “OSHA Chief: Inequality in America Is About Workplace Hazards, Too,” Seth Freed Weddler, July 14, 2014

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