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Sunday, December 7, 2014

A mixed bag in Labor Department’s latest agenda for new worker safety rules

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I took a little time this week to review the regulatory agenda of worker health and safety initiatives which was issued by the Labor Department. The November 21 document contains a mixed bag of unaddressed workplace hazards and slipped deadlines, as well as a few new topics for possible regulatory action. The fault for some of the slipped deadlines falls right on the doorstep of the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), for example, has been working on a rule that would require machines used in coal mines to cut coal to be equipped with proximity detection devices. The technology is commercially available and would prevent mine workers from being fatally crushed or permanently maimed when struck by this unforgiving equipment. Curiously, the Labor Department’s introductory statement for this new regulatory agenda highlights this new rule as one of Secretary Tom Perez’s priorities. But I’ve got to wonder how much his priorities matter to OIRA staff. MSHA’s draft final rule has been stuck in the “review” process at OIRA for nearly a year. MSHA submitted it to OIRA on January 8, 2014.
Every year, at least one coal miner dies because proximity detection devices are not required on continuous mining machines (let alone on any other mining machines.) In February 2014, Arthur D. Gelentser III, 24, was fatally pinned by one of these machines. After the fact,...
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