Needed Health and Safety Regulations Left Idle on Agency 'To-Do' Lists

With the release of their Spring 2006 regulatory agendas on Apr. 24, federal agencies once again relegate important health and safety protections to the back burner.

Though several needed protections have been added to agency agendas, most notably at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, many health and safety standards that have been long-identified as high priorities continue to sit on agencies' to-do lists, while motorists, workers and consumers continue to be exposed to unnecessary hazards.


  • The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) completed only three regulations in the past six months. Two of these were completed under court order: the regulation of occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium and the regulation for slip resistance of skeletal steel structures. The third, on rollover protective structures for tractors, was not a new regulation but rather a repeal of revisions the agency made in 1996.


  • Standards for occupational exposure to crystalline silica are still in the "prerule stage." Crystalline silica has been on the agency's agenda since fall 1997. Over two million workers are exposed to crystalline silica dust, which has been shown to cause death and disabling illnesses. According to the agenda, the agency has postponed the completion of a peer review of health effects and a risk assessment for crystalline silica originally due in April to sometime in November. No date has been set for a proposed rule.


  • Standards for occupational exposure to beryllium are also in the "prerule stage." The beryllium standard has been on the agency's agenda since spring of 1998. Exposure to beryllium dust in mining, extraction and processing causes lung and skin disease in 2 to 10 percent of exposed workers, according to OSHA.


  • OSHA has delayed implementing a standard requiring employers to pay for personal protective equipment, such as work gloves and safety glasses. The rulemaking was first proposed under Clinton in 1998, but the agency let the regulation languish for so long that in 2004 it called for a second round of comments on the regulation.



  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed just three regulations in the past six months.


  • While FDA does have a temporary measure in place, the agency has yet to promulgate a standard for shippers of imported food to give prior notice, as is required under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.


  • Three safeguards against the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, are still languishing on the agency's agenda. The rules would help close loopholes that allow cattle parts to be fed back to cattle, which is the main way BSE is spread among cattle. While these loopholes mean that BSE could still be spreading, the Department of Agriculture has also recently announced that it will reduce its surveillance program for BSE. (For more, see the recent white paper from Center for Science in the Public Interest, OMB Watch, and Consumer Federation of America, Cow Sense: The Bush Administration's Broken Record on Mad Cow Disease.


  • The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) completed a standard for the average fuel economy of light trucks, along with six other regulations in the last agenda period. Unfortunately, the light truck fuel economy standards provides a sliding scale for determining average fuel economy standards, allowing manufacturers to avoid making significant improvements in fuel efficiency.


  • Despite claims that "mitigation of rollover fatal and serious injuries is one of the Agency's highest priorities," NHTSA has failed to strengthen roof crush resistance standards for SUVs. First added to the agenda in 1996, the rulemaking has been moved to the agencies' long-term agenda. Moreover, the proposed regulation issued by the agency in August 2005 is only a slight improvement over the current standard. NHTSA is statutorily required to produce a standard by July 1, 2008.
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