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Election wrap-up

November 8, 2012

President Barack Obama was elected to another four years in office, but what does that mean for occupational safety and health? After Tuesday’s election, I spoke with some stakeholders about the issue. Here’s what they told me.

Continued enforcement. Most stakeholders agreed the Obama administration’s stance on tough enforcement likely will continue. “I don’t think you will see a significant change in the way the agency is enforcing its rules in a second term,” said Brad Hammock, a lawyer with Jackson Lewis LLP and a former OSHA attorney.

Regulatory movement. Several standards that are in the works have been stalled, notably an updated Crystalline Silica Standard, the proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program Standard and a general industry Combustible Dust Standard. With the election over, some stakeholders believe these standards may begin moving forward.

“They will try to move forward on all of these,” AFL-CIO Director of Safety and Health Peg Seminario suggested to me.

Regulatory delays. On the flip side, some industry experts contend that the Obama administration might not rush forward on promulgating new standards or putting forth new initiatives due to potential economic backlash.

“I think OSHA will continue to be pretty cautious about undertaking any new activities that might create the perception that there might be an adverse impact on jobs or the economy,” said Frank White, global director for Mercer ORC HSE Services in Washington.

OSHA’s budget. The “fiscal cliff” is approaching, meaning if Congress can’t work out a deficit-reduction deal, automatic spending cuts begin Jan. 1. These cuts would be across the board and would decrease OSHA’s budget. But White was hopeful a deal would be brokered beforehand. Although OSHA may not receive a budget boost, the agency’s funding level likely would remain unchanged, he added.

Legislative changes. Democrats remain in control of both the White House and Senate, and Republicans retain control of the House. As such, some stakeholders suggested any major legislative changes concerning occupational safety and health were unlikely to occur under a divided Congress.

For more on the election and what it means, check out my “Washington Update” column in the December issue of Safety+Health magazine.

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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