Workers at Risk: Regulatory Dysfunction at OSHA

This white paper explores the causes of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s regulatory dysfunctions and describes their negative impacts on OSHA and America’s Workers. With the decreasing power of unions to organize and press employers to implement strong health and safety programs, employees in every occupation rely on OSHA to protect them from occupational hazards. Yet, in the last decade, OSHA has dropped more standards from its regulatory agenda than it has finalized, largely due to insufficient budge authority.  And the agency’s enforcement program has assessed such paltry fines for even fatality-related violations of the law that many employers see no incentive in addressing hazards, much less developing precautionary health and safety programs.

After describing OSHA’s problems in detail, this paper outlines a number of reforms that could enhance the agency’s performance. Although certain aspects of the Occupational Safety and Health Act could use improvement, the recommendations in this paper focus on regulatory reform—administrative actions that OSHA could implement in the short term.

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