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AFL-CIO takes aim at OSHA

April 29, 2005
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The AFL-CIO this week released its annual state of U.S. workplace safety and health report, providing what OSHA blogger Jordan Barab (http://spewingforthblogspot.com) describes as "every bit of data you’ll ever need to back up your health and safety arguments or conduct a media interview."

Among the report's findings:

  • In fiscal year (FY) 2004, OSHA conducted 638 fewer health and safety inspections than in FY 2003. At its current staffing and inspection levels, it would take federal OSHA 108 years to inspect each workplace under its jurisdiction just once.

  • In FY 2004, serious violations of the OSH Act carried an average penalty of $873.

  • The average number of hours spent per inspection decreased between FY 1999 and FY 2004, from 22 to 18.7 hours per safety inspection and from 40 to 35.6 hours per health inspection.

  • The number of citations for willful violations decreased from 607 in FY 1999 to 446 in FY 2004.

  • Criminal Prosecutions: Of the 170,000 workplace deaths since 1982, only 16 convictions involving jail time have resulted — although 1,242 cases involving work deaths were determined by OSHA to involve “willful” violations by employers (violations in which the employer knew that workers’ lives were being put at risk).

  • At OSHA, the President proposes to eliminate all funding for worker safety training programs at the same time seeking increases for employer assistance programs. Taking into account inflation, this year’s proposed budget freezes OSHA’s and MSHA’s enforcement programs.

  • The Bush administration is the only administration in history not to issue a major safety and health regulation during its four years in office.

  • During its first term, in addition to repealing the ergonomics standard, the administration has withdrawn 24 pending OSHA regulatory actions from its regulatory agenda, leaving few major initiatives on the regulatory schedule.

  • OSHA still has taken no action on the Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment standard, which has been through the rulemaking process and is ready for final action.

  • The one major regulation on which OSHA is working, hexavalent chromium, is the result of a lawsuit brought against the agency by Public Citizen and PACE International Union.

  • There are currently four economically significant regulations still on the regulatory agenda in addition to hexavalent chromium: crystalline silica (in the pre-rule stage); confined spaces in construction (proposed rule stage); beryllium (pre-rule stage) and hearing conservation for construction workers (long-term action with the next action undetermined). There is no commitment from OSHA to propose the rules that are in the pre-rule or long-term action stages.
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