Monday, September 7, 2009

Bush Chemical Exposure Rule Killed

The Secret’s Over and Out: Bush Chemical Exposure Rule Killed

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It’s no secret now. The Bush administration’s clandestine move to loosen the rules on how much toxin or dangerous chemicals to which workers can be exposed—and to make it more difficult to issue new worker protection rules—is now officially dead.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week that the proposed rule was unnecessary and withdrew it. The rule came to be known as the [1] secret rule because of the Bush administration’s attempt to keep it off the public’s and media’s radar screen last year.

[2] In January, as one of its first official acts, the Obama administration ordered work halted on the chemical exposure rule and other last-minute regulatory changes the Bush administration tried to [3] ram through before leaving office.

The [4] secret rule could have led to increased exposure of workers to [1] dangerous chemicals and toxins by changing the way worker exposure is measured. The rule was pushed by Bush political appointees over the objections of career health and safety professionals and [1] kept secret until media reports in July 2008 revealed the plan.

When the rule became public knowledge, it unleashed a firestorm of criticism from workplace safety advocates who pointed out that for the eight years the Bush administration had been in office, it had not developed any significant new worker safety rule—but with the clock running out, the administration was rushing to weaken protections.

Last [4] September, Dr. Celeste Monforton, from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University, told the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee it already takes far too long to implement new safety standards, and the Bush secret rule would only add further delays.

Our nation’s system for protecting workers from harmful substances that cause injuries, illnesses and deaths is paralyzed. Thousands of workers are exposed every day to chemical compounds and physical hazards that are known to be harmful, yet these exposures are permitted by outdated or non-existent OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and MSHA [Mine Safety and Health Administration] standards. This is a sloppy piece of work that will impede, not improve, protection for workers.

As AFL-CIO Health and Safety Director Peg Seminario testified:

It is shameful that after refusing to take action to protect workers from serious well-recognized health hazards for seven-and-a-half years, that the Bush administration is spending its last months and taxpayer money to lock in place rules that would prevent the next administration from taking prompt action.

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