Bookmark and Share

Senate HELP Holds Hearing on OSHA Standard Setting Process

Posted in on Thu, May 31, 2012

On April 19, the Senate Commitee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing entitled, “Time Takes Its Toll:  Delays in OSHA’s Standard-Setting Process and the Impact on Worker Safety.”  the hearing can be watched at

The Democratic press release on the hearing –

New GAO Report: Burdensome OSHA Regulatory Process Costs Lives

Thursday, April 19, 2012

WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) reacted to a new Government Accountability Office report  on workplace safety, released at a HELP Committee hearing. The GAO compiled the report on burdensome rulemaking process the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must use to regulate workplace safety, and found that the process slows the issuance of safety rules, costing some workers their lives. 

“The process for setting safety standards at OSHA is broken,” Chairman Harkin said. “Even when the evidence is undeniable that our workers are dying from workplace hazards, OSHA still takes an eternity to issue a new safety rule.  While reasonable safety rules are delayed to provide never-ending opportunities for stakeholder input, workers’ lives and livelihood are at risk.  It is simply unconscionable that workers must suffer while an OSHA rule is mired in bureaucracy.”

“OSHA’s ability to protect workers has been crippled by excessive red tape that needlessly leaves our nation’s workers at risk of getting sick, injured, or even killed on the job,” said Representative Miller. “Rather than adding more bureaucracy to the process like some are proposing, Congress should be working to modernize worker protection laws so that safety officials can reasonably and effectively respond to workplace dangers with the urgency those dangers deserve.”

“This GAO report shows that our country needs a better process for OSHA to be able to set safety standards for workplaces” said Senator Patty Murray. “Every worker deserves to be confident that while they are working hard and doing their jobs, everything is being done to keep them safe As we’ve seen in my home state of Washington, government, businesses, and workers can work together in a fair and efficient process to protect workers—and that needs to be emulated on the federal level and in states across America.”

“This report confirms our worst suspicions, that red tape and bureaucratic hurdles are keeping OSHA from carrying out its vital mission,” Representative Woolsey said. “It is simply unacceptable that it takes as long as 19 years for OSHA to issue needed protections.  The price is paid with lives lost and injuries suffered that could otherwise have been prevented.”

The GAO report findings include:

  • Since 1981, it has taken nearly 8 years on average for OSHA to issue a new safety rule.  Some rules take as long as 15 years.
  • OSHA has only issued 58 significant rules since 1981, and only 11 since 2000. 

According to a previous GAO report, since the 1980s, it has taken OSHA an average of almost 8 years to put out a final rule. 

  • 50 percent longer than the EPA
  • Twice as long as the Department of Transportation
  • More than 5 times as long as the SEC

The press release from Senator Enzi, Ranking Member of the Committee –

April 19, 2012                                                                                    

OSHA Approach to Safety Should be All-of-the-Above

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a hearing today on workplace safety and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said that while workplace injuries and illness have declined, the nation must continue to do better.

“Workplace safety is surely one of the most important missions Congress has authorized for the Department of Labor.  There are literally lives and livelihoods on the line,” said Senator Enzi.  “When it comes to improving workplace safety, OSHA must have an all-of-the-above strategy and pursue multiple methods, rather than focusing only on new regulations and stronger enforcement.  Voluntary programs involving employees and management such as the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) have been shown to make workplaces considerably safer and save money.  Yet, under the current Administration, VPP has been threatened and undermined.  Instead, we should be talking about expanding VPP to smaller employers and making it even more effective.”

Last year, Senator Enzi joined with Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, to introduce legislation to protect and preserve the Department of Labor’s Voluntary Protection Programs.  The program is a cooperative effort between private industry and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but was slated for defunding by the Administration’s FY2011 budget proposal. 

“As someone who has run a workplace safety program personally, I am very supportive of giving employers quality information and flexibility to see what works best to keep their worksite safe,” Senator Enzi said. “Today, even the smallest employers must grapple with thousands of pages of regulations and burdensome record-keeping requirements.  But what should matter the most is the result, keeping workplaces safe.  OSHA must use its broad authority appropriately when establishing new standards.  The agency must ensure that new standards address an actual hazard and the preventative steps OSHA may mandate must actually work to reduce the risk.  If the costs will weigh heavily on small businesses, OSHA must consult with small business stakeholders.  I will closely scrutinize proposals to ‘shortcut’ any of these important steps.”

Get Involved

ASSE is committed to ensuring that any decision by federal or state government impacting the safety, health and environment of the workplace is based on good science and sound technology.

Get Involved in Government Affairs