Congress Considers Higher OSHA Penalties (Again)

by Sidney Shapiro | March 19, 2010

The Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the Protecting America’s Workers Act of 2009, legislation that would, among other reforms, modernize workplace health and safety penalties. More than a decade ago, I testified at a similar hearing in the House of Representatives on the same subject. The need for stronger OSHA penalties was apparent then, and it is no less apparent today.

The hearing is memorable to me because I testified along with a father whose son was killed on a construction site while working at a summer job between years of college. His son was working on one of the floors of a multi-story building under construction. He was asked to carry some construction materials across the floor of the building from one side to the other. He piled up the materials in his arms with the result that he could not see clearly in front of himself. When he walked across the floor, he stepped into the hole that was the elevator shaft, falling to his death at the bottom. The contractor had not put up a barricade around the hole in the floor, as it was required to do in order to prevent just such accidents.

OSHA has done much good; workplaces are safer than they were at the time that the agency was founded. But one does not have to look very far ...

OSHA HazCom Hearing Today: What We'll Be Saying

by James Goodwin | March 05, 2010
Imagine opening your medicine cabinet, only to find that the warning and information labels on your over-the-counter medications no longer include dosing information. How would you know how much Benadryl to take or how much aspirin to give to your child? A provision in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule modifying its Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard threatens to deprive U.S. workers of similar safety information—information they depend upon ever day to protect themselves against the hazardous chemicals ...

Stakeholders Speak, and OSHA Listens

by Matt Shudtz | March 04, 2010
Today the top brass from OSHA opened their doors to the many stakeholders who have something to say about how the agency is doing in its efforts to protect U.S. workers. Of course, they got an earful. The event marks a new path for OSHA, in that the head of the agency and top career staff took the time to sit face-to-face with occupational health experts, workers, worker representatives, and even the families of victims of workplace accidents, not just ...

New CPR Report Examines Regulatory Dysfunction at OSHA

by Ben Somberg | February 09, 2010
CPR today releases the white paper Workers at Risk: Regulatory Dysfunction at OSHA (press release). The report examines an Occupational Safety and Health Administration where Today its enforcement staff is stretched thin and the rulemaking staff struggle to produce health and safety standards that can withstand industry legal challenges. In short, OSHA is a picture of regulatory dysfunction. The new leadership of the agency has ... inherited a resource-starved agency operating under a statute that has been enfeebled by 30 ...

OSHA's First Year Under Obama: Shaking Off the Cobwebs

by James Goodwin | January 26, 2010
This post is the sixth in a series on the new CPR report Obama’s Regulators: A First-Year Report Card. During the Bush Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) became a regulatory wasteland. Political interference, outdated laws, and chronic underfunding reduced the agency’s regulatory output to a mere trickle. For example, in the last 10 years, OSHA has issued comprehensive regulations for only two chemicals; in total, it has established legally enforceable exposure limits for fewer than 200 of ...

Regulatory Highs and Lows of 2009: OSHA and Toxics

by Matt Shudtz | December 30, 2009
CPRBlog asked some of our regular bloggers to give us some suggestions for the high and low points of the regulatory year. We began by taking the Bush Administration’s “midnight regulations” off the table, so that we could focus in on the Obama Administration’s impact to date. CPR Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz offers up a number of items, below, focusing on the positive: At OSHA, several high points:  The leadership of David Michaels (as Assistant Secretary, the head of OSHA) and Jordan ...

Déjà Vu all Over Again: OSHA's Inability to Stop Serial Violators on Display in New Hampshire Foundry

by Sidney Shapiro | December 15, 2009
The Concord Monitor has identified a New Hampshire factory (Franklin Non-Ferrous Foundry) that has been the subject of previous OSHA investigations and fines, yet continues to expose its workers to dangerous conditions. OSHA’s most recent fine, $250,000, came after the agency found that a worker had high levels of lead in his blood. The newspaper obtained OSHA documents that revealed a pattern of violations by the company. The New Hampshire case is a troubling reminder of how weak OSHA is ...

Good News, Bad News in Solis' Regulatory Agenda

by Ben Somberg | December 10, 2009
The below item is written by Celeste Monforton and cross-posted from The Pump Handle. The first regulatory agenda under OIRA chief Cass Sunstein was published [Monday] in the Federal Register (link to its 237 pages.)  The document includes a narrative of Labor Secretary Solis’ vision for worker health and safety, mentioning these specific hazards: crystalline silica, beryllium, coal dust, airborne infectious agents, diacetyl, cranes and dams for mine waste.   The document purports to “demonstrate a renewed commitment to worker health,” yet ...

'Sound Science' Attack on OSHA Nominee David Michaels Is Drenched in Irony

by Sidney Shapiro | October 06, 2009
  How’s this for any irony? David Michaels, President Obama’s nominee to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has written a book, published by Oxford University press, documenting how industry manufactures doubts that chemicals harm people by accusing regulators and plaintiff lawyers of relying of “junk science” instead of “sound science.” Now, after Michaels has exposed this effort as a public relations campaign that mischaracterizes how science actually works, he is being attacked on the grounds, you guessed it, of ...

Sid Shapiro Interview on Michaels Nomination to OSHA

by Matthew Freeman | August 10, 2009
  CPR's Sid Shapiro is interviewed in this week's edition of Living On Earth, the environment-focused public radio show heard in 300 markets around the nation.  The subject is David Michaels's nomination to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.   Says Shapiro:  "David Michaels has his job cut out for him. I think it's fair to say that OSHA is one of the most dysfunctional agencies in Washington. For example, Congress had a plan how to regulate toxic chemicals ...

Reviving OSHA: The New Administrator's Big Challenge

by Sidney Shapiro | July 30, 2009
On Tuesday, the White House announced the appointment of Dr. David Michaels to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). An epidemiologist and a professor at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, Michaels will bring substantial expertise and experience to the job. Besides being an active health research – he studies the health effects of occupational exposure to toxic chemicals – he has also written impressively on science and regulatory policy. His book, Doubt Is ...

Wanted: A Wise Latina

by Rena Steinzor | July 23, 2009
This post is co-written by CPR President Rena Steinzor and Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz. Just as the traditional media finished a breathless cycle of reporting on how prospective Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had renounced her claim that a “wise Latina” would make different decisions than a white man, an article in USA Today reminded us of the need for many more wise Latinas in the corridors of power in Washington. According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor ...

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