OSHA's Response to Charges Confirms Them

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Did the Occupational Safety and Health Administration kill the tooth fairy? Are bricks, chalk and dishwashing detergent hazardous materials? Do OSHA inspectors have quotas they have to meet? Does OSHA cite companies when their workers chew gum on the job?

These and other earth-shattering questions apparently consumed top officials at the regulatory agency for much of the past two years as they dealt with a slew of questions about how they regulate small businesses across America, according to documents they've turned over to Congress.

In 1995, OSHA developed a "rapid-response team" to deal with horror stories that were circulating widely about the way the agency runs roughshod over companies, according to documents sent to Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican.

The team was a high-level one, including six area directors from around the country, OSHA's chief of staff, the head of congressional affairs and other assorted folks.

Their purpose? To rebut charges leveled publicly against the agency and keep Congress from cutting their budget and imposing some sanity at the agency.

But, curiously, in the process of trying to answer their critics, they shot themselves in the foot on more than one occasion and even proved the critics' cases.

Take, for instance, the allegation that OSHA killed the tooth fairy by preventing dentists from giving extracted baby teeth back to children's parents.

"Absolutely not true," said the high-level rapid-response team in its formal response to the charge. The agency's regulations don't affect dental patients. They apply only to employees in dentists' offices.

But, it seems, extracted teeth may be contaminated with blood, and therefore must be handled properly by the dentist's employees (or OSHA dings the dentist). So, naturally, many dentists' offices - not wanting to run the risk of OSHA citations - don't return the teeth. And thus is the tooth fairy killed off.

So is OSHA holding the proverbial smoking gun that rubbed out the tooth fairy? Well, of course it is. It intimidates the dentists, who stop giving the baby teeth back. Simple as that.

Or take a rapid response to a report in The Washington Times about complaints that OSHA cited a company for violation of the bloodborne pathogen standard when a worker chose to help fellow workers in an oil rig fire.

A fire breaks out on an oil rig. The company involved does not have a first aid program in place dealing with exposure to bloodborne pathogens. …