Anti-Regulatory Rhetoric Ignores Regulations' Benefits: Public Citizen

Justin Feldman and Taylor Lincoln of the organization's Congress Watch division cite five OSHA and MSHA rules as proving that safety and health regulations often cost less and yield more than opponents feared.

A new report from Public Citizen answers the anti-regulatory rhetoric heard from some members of Congress this year as they have introduced measures to delay new regulations for years or, possibly, indefinitely. To make their case, Justin Feldman and Taylor Lincoln of the organization's Congress Watch division cite five OSHA and MSHA rules in their "Regulations at Work: Five Rules that Save Workers' Lives and Protect their Health" report as proving that safety and health regulations often cost less and yield more than opponents initially feared.

First on their list is OSHA's cotton dust standard, enacted in 1978 to reduce byssinosis, or brown lung disease. It was an unqualified success: OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels observed early this year that the standard "drove down rates of brown lung disease among textile workers from 12 percent to 1 percent."

Other standards cited in the report are OSHA's lockout/tagout standard, issued in 1989; OSHA's excavation standard that mandates protection against trench collapses; OSHA's grain handling facilities standard; and the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act, passed in 1969 and setting the stage for the Mine Safety and Health Act that created MSHA in 1977.

"Amid the current barrage of anti-regulatory rhetoric, it is crucial to remember the important role that government safeguards have in saving lives and protecting public health," Feldman and Lincoln write in their conclusion. "These five worker safety regulations were tremendously successful in reducing employee injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. For the most part, industry groups initially opposed each regulation while downplaying the hazard in question. Often, they later came to embrace the regulations, writing supportive comments to government agencies in several cases."

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