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OSHA woefully deficient in preventing toxic exposure to chemicals

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created to protect workers from hazardous conditions in their jobs. But due to numerous changes in the workplace since the agency was created in 1970, as well as pressures from special interest groups, OSHA is failing to protect many workers from common workplace hazards.

A recent investigation shows that OSHA is far behind other enforcement agencies in protecting employees from chemical exposure. For example, chemical exposure limits enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency are up to 1,000 times more stringent than those set by OSHA. And, only a small fraction of the chemicals used in the American workplace have even been evaluated by OSHA. Of an estimated 84,000 chemicals, OSHA has evaluated only 470 and many of those regulations are out-of-date.

OSHA itself admits the deficiencies, but the agency’s chief points to issues such as politics and budgets for its inability to improve its operations. The law that created the agency in 1970 has not been updated by Congress in spite of the many technological and industrial changes in the workplace in subsequent decades. The complex process and millions of dollars required change rules prevent many needed changes. And many industry associations seeking to protect their own interests argue against efforts to improve conditions due to the anticipated expense to the employers.

One example of the latter obstacle involves the silica used in many construction projects. Reports estimate that millions of construction workers are being threatened by silica exposure. But the American Foundry Group argued against implementing improvements, saying that the changes would require 10 percent of the industry’s revenue, in turn threatening the viable operation of foundries.

With work-related diseases accounting for 190,000 illnesses and 50,000 deaths annually, OSHA has a responsibility to protect workers from these devastating effects. But until government red tape allows the agency to more easily make these changes, workers affected by toxic exposure should try to enforce their rights to workers’ compensation benefits. An attorney in North Carolina who is familiar with the deficiencies in OSHA enforcement can be helpful in assessing any claim for benefits that have resulted from the agency’s ineffective prevention.

Source: Manufacturing.net, “Report: OSHA Not Doing Enough To Protect Workers From Chemical Hazards,” Andy Szal, July 1, 2015

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