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The OMB hurdle

May 1, 2013

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One step in OSHA’s rulemaking process that critics suggest slows things down is the review by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

OMB requires OSHA to look at the cost of a rule. Although some stakeholders suggest OSHA’s risk assessment plays a part in slowing down the rulemaking process, Adam Finkel, former director of Health Standards Programs for OSHA, said the real culprit is the economic analysis. Finkel said the analysis is conducted by people inside OSHA, which does not have enough resources or staff to complete the labor-intensive work in a timely manner.

This economic analysis is problematic for another reason, according to Randy Rabinowitz, director of regulatory policy for the Washington-based Center for Effective Government. The analysis is conducted only for the OMB review, Rabinowitz said, and the Supreme Court has ruled the agency cannot use it when creating a rule.

Another aspect about the OMB process that angers some stakeholders is the office’s repeated failure to meet deadlines. Technically, the review process is meant to last 90 days, with a possible 30-day extension. But for several recent OSHA proposals, the review process has extended far longer. Most notable is OSHA’s proposed rule to update its Crystalline Silica Standard, which at press time had been under review by OMB for more than two years.

“What’s going on with silica is just a travesty,” Rabinowitz said. The result has been OSHA stuck in a sort of regulatory limbo, she said, waiting to find out whether the White House will eventually approve or reject the rule. (For more on silica and OMB, read Silica standoff.)

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