OSHA Takes Almost Eight Years to Approve Workplace Safety Rules

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report showing just how long it takes for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to adopt workplace safety rules. On average it takes the agency almost eight years to approve new safety rules, much longer than other government agencies.

OSHA aims to assure safe working conditions for the nation’s working women and men by developing and enforcing safety standards. When delays hold up the rulemaking process workers may be at risk for workplace accidents and injuries. For instance, several workers died in crane accidents during the almost 10 years it took the agency to issue safety rules for construction cranes.

Between 1980 and 2000, OSHA issued 47 new safety regulations. Since then, however, the agency has only approved 11 new rules. Some rules, like standards for scaffolding, have taken almost 20 years to be approved.

The Senate recently held a hearing on the GAO’s report. “It is simply unconscionable that workers must suffer while an OSHA rule is mired in bureaucracy,” stated Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

A variety of factors may contribute to delays at the agency. These include changing priorities, procedural requirements, political roadblocks, a higher standard of judicial review and involvement from business interests.

The GAO suggested that OSHA work more closely with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to avoid duplication of work and to increase efficiencies. Hopefully, increased attention on the agency will ultimately result in improvements and safer working conditions.

Source: Insurance Journal, “OSHA Hit for Taking Too Long to Adopt Workplace Safety Rules,” Sam Hananel, April 23, 2012.