Posted by | March 9, 2012 00:49 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

To listen to the Republican candidates, you would think that the Obama administration was issuing a major regulation every day.  But in the area of occupational health, they have hardly issued any regulations.

…when it comes to new regulations they are stymied at every turn. In early 2010 OSHA attempted to issue a rule to allow employers to note when a workplace injury was caused by repetitive stress. The standard would have added an extra column to the survey employers are required to fill out when a worker is hurt. The Chamber of Commerce reacted fiercely, and a year later the regulation was dead. A similar fate befell a proposed rule that would have required basic engineering controls to protect workers from excessive and eardrum-damaging noise on the job.

However OSHA under President Obama has been doing a lot of enforcing the existing regulations, something that the previous administration neglected.

…employers have taken notice. One business consultant’s new ad reads: “OSHA’s back in the enforcement business and issuing inspections and citations at a record pace. They’ve hired more inspectors, are pushing for higher penalties and even looking to put safety pros in jail.” Such scare tactics are clearly self-serving in this instance, but OSHA’s recalibration of its penalty system got serious coverage in trade journals and among industry associations. These actions could compel employers to think twice before taking chances with workers’ lives, even if the average OSHA penalty is still around $1,000.

So when industry is complaining about OSHA, what they are complaining about is that they are enforcing the law.

By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.