Federal agencies

Updated regulatory agenda shows fewer changes for OSHA, unveils ‘3-for-1’ deregulation plan

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The Department of Labor’s updated regulatory agenda for fall 2017, released Dec. 14, contains fewer changes for OSHA than the previous agenda, published in July. The Mine Safety and Health Administration, meanwhile, is seeking input on potential alterations to a rule intended to reduce worker exposure to coal dust.

In addition, the introduction to the fall agenda touts a “3-for-1” plan, in which “agencies plan to finalize three deregulatory actions for every new regulatory action in 2018.” The agenda, typically issued twice a year, details the status and projected dates for all regulations.

Changes for OSHA

The fall agenda shows 16 OSHA regulations in three active stages: pre-rule, proposed rule and final rule – up from 14 in the previous agenda. Two rules were moved from “long-term action” status: amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard (now in the proposed rule stage), and Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records (final rule stage).

The following regulations moved from the proposed rule stage in the previous agenda to the final rule stage in the new agenda:

The status of Standards Improvement Project IV, the only regulation listed in the final rule stage in July, has not changed.

The push for deregulation

The first regulatory agenda released by President Donald Trump’s administration in July removed 16 of the 30 OSHA regulations listed on the fall 2016 agenda released during the Obama administration.

Overall, a combined 1,036 regulations throughout all federal agencies were withdrawn, made inactive or assigned “long-term” status. That number was 543 in this latest list, with 299 added to “long-term” actions and 166 withdrawn.

President Trump signed an Executive Order on Jan. 30, 2017, requiring federal agencies to cut two regulations for every new one proposed. The White House published a guidance memo three days later clarifying that the Executive Order would apply only to those regulations with a proposed cost of $100 million or more.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, fellow watchdog organization Public Citizen and the Communications Workers of America labor union filed a lawsuit on Feb. 8, claiming the Executive Order “directs federal agencies to engage in unlawful actions that will harm countless Americans.” Those organizations had their day in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in August and are awaiting a decision.

Neomi Rao, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, said in a Dec. 14 press briefing that the fall agenda – with its 3-for-1 mandate – contains 448 deregulatory actions and 131 regulatory actions while touting a projected $10 billion in “present-value cost savings.”

Meanwhile, National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens issued a statement Dec. 14 saying that, “The Trump administration is approaching a new low in terms of its attack on workers.”

Owens continued: “The regulatory road map … promises to extend its almost yearlong trail of broken promises to working people. The Labor Department’s Fall Regulatory Agenda is a plan to cut pay for working people, endanger their health and safety in workplaces across numerous industries, and take away vital safeguards that enable consumers to make informed investments to build and protect their retirement savings.”

Changes for MSHA

MSHA had two changes to the regulatory agenda, both designed for public input on future rules changes.

The agency issued a press release Oct. 23 asking for stakeholder assistance in identifying regulations that could be repealed, replaced or modified without reducing miners’ safety or health. The regulations could include “existing standards and regulations that could be improved or made more effective or less burdensome by accommodating advances in technology, innovative techniques or less costly methods, including the requirements that could be streamlined or replaced in frequency,” the agenda states.

The agency’s retrospective study of its coal dust rule is listed as part of that. MSHA issued its final rule in 2014 to change the standards for coal dust exposure and establish requirements for sampling with continuous personal dust monitors, among other alterations.

That same year, a NIOSH study reported that progressive massive fibrosis among coal workers was at its highest level in 40 years.

MSHA also is seeking recommendations on “alternatives to safety standards, which MSHA typically approves in Petitions for Modification submitted by mine operators.” The agency states that incorporating those alternatives into its current regulations would provide cost savings for mine operators that submit petitions.

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