By Scott Schneider

After last fall’s election, with Republicans in charge of both the White House and Congress, it was clear that Business would have their ear.  Job growth has been steady but slow.  The economy was moving in the right direction but faster growth was needed.  What was going to spur growth?  What was holding back businesses?  The answer had to be regulation.

Too many regulations were preventing businesses from thriving, particularly small businesses.  Regulations, all of them, are seen as the culprit with no distinctions.  Regulations were just bad.  The President asked business leaders to tell him which regulations to target and got 168 suggestions including a 51-page list from the Associated General Contractors (AGC), a major construction association.

EPA regulations were, as expected, at the top of the list because, well, cleaning up the environment was just too costly.  But also high on the list were OSHA rules.  Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), passed in 1996, Congress can just throw out rules it doesn’t like but only if published in the last 60 legislative days, e.g. any rules published since last June.  Other rules can be targeted for repeal over a longer process.  And guidance documents can just be withdrawn.   Below are some of the items AGC’s OSHA Wish List:

  • Silica Rule that protects millions against cancer-causing dust. The AGC wants OSHA to quit defending the rule in court, suspend it and start proceedings to rescind it.
  • Electronic Recordkeeping that would require employers to send injury and illness numbers in to OSHA – Quit defending this rule in court, suspend it and start proceedings to rescind it.
  • Volks Rule to require employers to keep accurate injury logs for 5 years. Rescind it (this rule has already been overturned by Congress using the CRA).
  • Coordinate with Department of Justice(DOJ) on Criminal Prosecutions- AGC wants to rescind this Obama administration Memorandum between the Department of Labor and DOJ.
  • Hold individuals Responsible for Corporate Wrongdoing- Rescind this guidance.
  • Give unorganized employees the right to designate representatives the right to Walk Around with OSHA Inspectors- Rescind this Letter of Interpretation.
  • Partnership with Local Building Inspectors- Abandon this program.

Many other policies and rules are on the chopping block, including Davis-Bacon requirements for Federal projects, the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act (which was also overturned by Congress under the CRA) and Child Labor laws restricting the work that 16 and 17-year-old apprentices can do.

Regardless of the value of the regulation — — all of which have undergone a rigorous and lengthy rule-making process —  or how many lives would be saved or injuries prevented, regulations are seen as bad.

Let’s hope that common sense prevails and the regulations that save lives are not victims to a slash and burn mentality.

Yes, regulations do cost businesses money.  But they also level the playing field and generally the costs are far outweighed by the injuries prevented and lives saved.  It is money well spent.

Scott Schneider worked for the Laborer’s safety and health program for more than 18 years, and has worked on health and safety issues for 36 years in the Washington DC area.

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