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Acosta: DOL plans internal audit of all guidance documents

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Photo: Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee

Washington — The Department of Labor will review all guidance documents issued by its agencies – including OSHA – to determine whether they require formal rulemaking, Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta told a Senate appropriations subcommittee May 2.

For the second straight day, Acosta faced questions from lawmakers, this time from the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. During the hearing, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) asked about a DOL Office of Inspector General audit report issued March 28 that asserts OSHA often didn’t follow protocol when issuing guidance documents between late 2013 and early 2016.

“OSHA lacked procedures to determine if it was appropriate to issue a document as guidance, rather than a rule,” the report states. “Issuing as guidance is appropriate if the document is interpretative or a general statement of policy, and does not create, modify or revoke a standard.”

Acosta said such guidance was often issued to OSHA field staff and not to the public.

“We’re in the process of looking internally at how we develop a rule,” he said. “Apologies that this sounds so bureaucratic, but it’s almost a rule on how we issues rules.”

The secretary later added, “We’re developing our own internal mechanism that will look at all guidance documents and will determine whether this is something that should appropriately be a guidance document or whether this would require rulemaking.”

Although the DOL OIG report focused on OSHA, DOL will look at guidance documents throughout the department, Acosta said in response to a follow-up question from Lankford.

The Senate, at press time, hadn’t released its proposed budget for OSHA or other DOL agencies. The subcommittee’s counterpart in the House released a draft of its budget bill April 29, allocating more than $660.9 million for OSHA in fiscal year 2020 – around $103 million more than the Trump administration’s proposed budget for the agency.

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