Commenters Start to Attack DOL’s Risk Management Rule

The U.S. Labor secretary's much-criticized proposed rule, "Requirements for DOL Agencies’ Assessment of Occupational Health Risks," is open for public comments, and the few posted so far on the government's rulemaking Web site (www.regulations.gov) are united: They want the rule withdrawn. These comments also seek a public hearing and an extended comment period. The rule was published Aug. 29 after criticism from newspaper editorials, a group of 80 public health professors and scientists, and the chairman of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.

The comment deadline is Sept. 29. One of the comments posted Wednesday also comes from a group of 39 academics and professionals headed by Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland Law School in Baltimore and president of the Center for Progressive Reform. This comment says the 30-day comment period afforded so far is inadequate, the docket is incomplete because DOL has not included studies and a review it used in drafting the rule, and rulemaking is the wrong way for DOL for modify its risk assessment policies in the first place.

Other comments have been filed by Marty Winiarski, director of the UAW's Health & Safety Department, and Dennis O'Dell, the United Mine Workers' administrator of safety and health. Winiarski's comment is blunt, saying in part, "The primary shortcoming regarding chemical exposure standards is that OSHA has failed to promulgate new standards sufficient to protect workers from death and disease. Since the proposed 'Requirements' throw up obligatory roadblocks for standard development, this rule change will only cause further delay, death and disease."

O'Dell's comment is similar, saying in part, "We are extremely disappointed that DOL is focusing resources on developing rulemaking procedures that will prolong the rulemaking process rather than promulgating meaningful rules designed to protect miners and other workers. For example, for years we have been seeking rules that would protect miners from the health hazards associated with respirable dust and crystalline silica, not to mention our request that MSHA update the outdated air quality chemical substance and respiratory protection standards.  Rules on any of these issues would do far more to protect workers, and would be a better use of limited Agency dollars and manpower resources."

To comment or check the docket, visit the rulemaking site and search for RIN 1290-AA23.

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