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Congressional spotlight on OSHA for delaying safety reform measures

Employees' down time for on-the-job injuries, issues concerning workers' compensation claims and benefits and a number of related matters regarding workplace injuries are closely affected by what many safety experts say is extreme tardiness by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in enacting new safety regulations.

The agency takes far too long generally -- especially when compared to other agencies -- to conduct investigations and issue rules aimed at reducing accidents, say a number of persons recently speaking before a Senate committee hearing. In the interim, workers across the country remain at risk of suffering serious and fatal injuries.

"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," a former OSHA director told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

On average, it takes OSHA about eight years to get a new safety rule or regulation into place. That is double the time it takes for some other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

As to why that is, critics cite undue caution and too much red tape, with OSHA officials being too concerned with -- and in some cases creating -- excessive levels of procedure.

The Senate committee chairman, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says that the agency "is mired in bureaucracy."

Some OSHA officials call that an unfair comment, noting that they face unique pressures and litigation from business groups opposed to reform or wanting inclusion in the process leading up to rule changes.

There is no arguing with the numbers, though: Some OSHA rules take more than a decade to implement, others suffer delays of more than 20 years, and the pace of new rules established since the 1990s has slowed down greatly when compared with previously measured timeframes.

Source: Insurance Journal, "OSHA hit for taking too long to adopt workplace safety rules," Sam Hananel, April 23, 2012

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