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GAO to OSHA: Speed It Up a Little

By Erin Weaver

This article originally appeared on BuildingGreen.com.

June 26, 2012

The U.S. General Accountability Office (GAO) has performed an audit of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concluding that the agency’s cumbersome procedures make it far too slow to act, resulting in insufficient worker protection.

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“Workplace Safety and Health: Multiple Challenges Lengthen OSHA’s Standard Setting” says a typical OSHA rule takes nearly eight years to develop, with many taking much longer. For example, a 2006 rule on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium—used in wood preservation, anti-corrosives, and production of stainless steel—took 12 years to develop; a silica exposure standard has been in the works since 1997.

While OSHA has the authority to issue temporary standards to address urgent hazards, it hasn’t done so since 1983. Among the agency’s hindrances, says the report, are time-consuming visits to multiple work sites and the requirement of “substantial evidence in the record considered as a whole,” while other agencies are merely prohibited from issuing “arbitrary and capricious” rules.

GAO’s recommendations for OSHA include increased coordination with other agencies; statutory rule-making deadlines; standards of review in line with other agencies’; alternatives to site visits, such as surveys; and adoption of a priority-setting process. For more information, see www.gao.gov.

Copyright 2012 by BuildingGreen Inc.

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