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May 20, 2000
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The Senate appropriations committee approved an OSHA budget last month that would leave the agency $32.6 million better off than the House version. While the House bill cut OSHA's enforcement budget by nearly 33 percent and the overall budget by 15.5 percent, the Senate version cuts both enforcement and the overall budget just 5 percent.

The Senate bill also deletes from the budget House language prohibiting OSHA from issuing an ergonomics standard and from implementing the six-foot fall protection standard. The Senate bill awaits approval by the full Senate before a House-Senate conference committee hashes out the differences between the two versions.

Small employers' challenges to OSHA citations should be adjudicated quicker and cheaper when the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission's pilot E-Z Trial program gets underway the first of the month. Cases eligible for the accelerated and simplified process include: those with few citation items; those with proposed penalties of $10,000 or less; those where no willful violation has been alleged; those where a hearing is expected to take less than two days; and those involving a small employer represented by a lawyer or not. The Commission will evaluate the program after one year.

An OSHA reform bill being drafted by Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), chairwoman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, is expected to be introduced in the Senate in mid-October, according to a spokesman from her office. Kassebaum's bill is expected to be more moderate than OSHA reform legislation by Rep. Cass Ballenger (R-NC), which has gained wide support in the House, and is expected to combine elements of other Senate bills, including legislation introduced by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.).

Leo Carey replaces Michael Silverstein as head of OSHA's office of policy. Silverstein resigned in June following his wife Barbara's departure from the agency. Carey comes from another agency position where he worked since April 1994 on OSHA reinvention. He is also a former director of OSHA's Office of Field Programs.

OSHA issues a record high $8.2 million fine against Samsung Guam, Inc., following an investigation into a fatal accident at a construction project at the Guam International Air Terminal. OSHA proposed maximum $70,000 penalties for each of 118 employees exposed to alleged willful fall hazard violations. The fine is the largest ever proposed in a construction industry case, and the second highest in OSHA history.

In other agency action, OSHA proposed nearly $500,000 in fines against a Caruthersville, Missouri, barge manufacturing facility owned by Trinity Industries. Alleged safety violations resulted in the deaths of two welders working in a freshly painted confined space.

Two new members met with OSHA's national advisory committee on occupational safety and health in late September to review OSHA's hazard communication standard, discuss a proposed safety and health program standard, and hear about NIOSH's National Research Agenda. New members are: Public Representative, Kenneth Zeller, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Labor; and Safety Representative, Kennith Brock, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. the version of the EPA budget approved by the Senate appropriations committee Sept. 13 is kinder to the agency than the House version, but at $5.66 billion, would still fund $1.7 billion less than what was requested by the Clinton administration and cut $1 billion from this year's funding.

Further weakening the House appropriations, the Senate committee eliminated most anti-regulatory riders attached to the House budget. In fact, the only rider remaining from the House bill prohibits EPA from requiring employers to adopt car-pooling plans.

The Senate bill also cuts $500 million from the amount requested by the Clinton administration for the Superfund program, and reserves about 40 percent of the agency budget for state spending. OSHA's use of employer safety and health audits for enforcement deters employers from establishing comprehensive audit programs, says Organization Resources Counselors, Inc., in a letter to Labor Secretary Robert Reich. ORC recommends the department notify employers through the Federal Register that it urges them to conduct audits and that OSHA will not seek audit documents in conjunction with an inspection.

Alice Hamilton, MD. (1869-1970), a pioneer in the battle against lead poisoning in the workplace and Harvard University's first female professor, is pictured on a new 55- cent U.S. postage stamp. Hamilton is known for her dedication to worker health and safety in the U.S., Europe, and Russia. Recently the American Industrial Hygiene

Association re-released Hamilton's autobiography, "Exploring the Dangerous Trades." a new method of screening workers for hazardous chemical doses is reviewed in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in September. Measurement of changes in the hemoglobin molecules of blood (a hemoglobin adduct measurement) indicate a person's dose of potential cancer-causing chemicals and may aid discovery of factors responsible for initiating cancers, according to the article.

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