Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Outgoing Bush Administration Working Hard To Endanger Workers' Health

Following my recent post on how the Bush administration is furiously working to leave behind as many destructive rules as possible, the New York Times zeroed in on their determination to allow businesses to endanger workers' health:

The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job.

The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses.

The administration's tactic is to make setting health rules much more burdensome:

Under the proposal, [the Labor Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] would have to publish “advance notice of proposed rule-making,” soliciting public comment on studies, scientific information and data to be used in drafting a new rule. In some cases, OSHA has done that, but it is not required to do so.

...Randel K. Johnson, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, said his group “unequivocally supports” the proposal because it would give the public a better opportunity to comment on the science and data used by the government.

Mr. Johnson is quite civic minded, isn't he? I suspect that the Chamber of Commerce's aim is not to solicit comments from the public, but to prevent pesky government agencies from safeguarding the health of workers. For President-elect Barack Obama to overturn the rules, he must solicit public comment and supply "a reasoned analysis," according to the Supreme Court.

I have a modest proposal of my own. Let's expose the Bush administration, the Chamber of Commerce and allied business groups to the same toxic substances and hazardous chemicals for the same period of time as the workers, until the risks are completely assessed. Would the administration then work to enact these changes with the same enthusiasm?

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