Sept. 28, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Obama's Reg Czar Feigns Transparency, Worker Safety Rules in Crosshairs

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Is anybody else getting tired of hearing Obama Administration officials say "sunlight is the best disinfectant?" It was uttered again on Thursday (9/23) when the President's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, was speaking at an event hosted by the Small Business Administration. His speech was loaded with all the transparency catch terms: "disclosure," "openness," "sunshine," "open government," "accountability," blah, blah, blah. The rhetoric was annoying to read because I'd been wrestling that week with OIRA's lack of transparency. I've been in the midst of trying to confirm whether representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and other industry lobbyists met recently with the reg czar's staff about a pending OSHA rule. Setting aside that these meetings are outside the normal rulemaking procedures and undermine that process, I'm frustrated hearing a lot of talk about transparency, but not seeing it.

Someone checking the OMB/OIRA website earlier last week (screenshot, 9/20/10) would think that not a single one of this extra-ordinary meetings with OIRA staff about pending OSHA rules have taken place since the GW Bush Administration. When I learned last week from two sources …

Sept. 22, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Cross posted from The Pump Handle.

MSHA announced Tuesday that it will be issuing on September 23 an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to improve a practice to prevent coal dust explosions. The rule addresses "rock dusting"--the decades old practice of generously applying pulverized limestone dust throughout a coal mine to dilute the potential power of a coal dust explosion. As NIOSH's Man and Teacoach explain:

"...the rock dust disperses, mixes with the coal dust and prevents flame propagation by acting as a thermal inhibitor or heat sink; i.e., the rock dust reduces the flame temperature to the point where devolatilization of the coal particles can no longer occur; thus, the explosion is inhibited."

Investigators suspect that the deadly blast that killed 29 miners on April 5 at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine may have been fueled by coal dust.

When the Labor …

July 2, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Cong. George Miller (D-CA) is a man of tough talk and swift action. Today, along with 15 other House members, he introduced H.R. 5663 a bill to upgrade provisions of our nation's key federal workplace health and safety laws. Every year, tens of thousands of workers are killed or made ill because of on-the-job hazards, and this year the toll of death made headline news. The Deepwater Horizon disaster and the Upper Big Branch mine explosion alone cut short the lives of 40 workers, with their coworkers' and families' lives changed forever.

H.R. 5663 will modernize whistleblower protections for workers who express concerns about safety and health, raise the maximum civil penalty amount that can be proposed by OSHA for serious, willful and repeat violations, and allow for criminal sanctions against employers who knowingly violate safety regulations that contributed …

May 5, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Beginning in December 2006, I’ve written five blog post commenting on the content of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) regulatory agenda for worker health and safety rulemakings.  Most of my posts see links below have criticized the Labor Secretary and senior OSHA and MSHA staff for failing to offer a bold vision for progressive worker protections.  Now that the Obama & Solis team have been on board for more than a year, I’m not willing to cut them any slack for being newbies.  Regrettably, as with the Bush/Chao agendas, my posts today will question rather than complement the OSHA team (and any bigger fish up the food chain) who are responsible for this plan.

I’ll start with the good news from OSHA’s reg agenda.   In the month of July, OSHA projects it will issue two final …

April 12, 2010 by Celeste Monforton

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

Last month, the US Dept of Labor (DOL) and MSHA were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act.  Their proclamations said:

“…this law represents a watershed moment in the improvement of occupational health and safety in the United States. It was the precursor to the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which created MSHA, and it was the basis of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970.  The Coal Act forever transformed occupational safety and health in the United States.”

Now, I’m reading news story after news story with these same officials asserting the Mine Act is weak and doesn’t provide MSHA the tools it needs to shut down dangerous workplaces.  The spin machine is kicking into high gear. 

The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. reports that federal inspectors issued …

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