Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Negotiated Rulemaking

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Negotiated Rulemaking

Article excerpt

Recent events show how important consensus has become in the quarrelsome world of OSHA rulemaking.

On Feb. 1, the United Steelworkers of America announced that it had reached agreement with the synthetic rubber industry concerning a proposed OSHA health standard for 1,3-butadiene (BD). Since 1983, there has been evidence that BD, a chemical used in the production of synthetic rubber, is an animal carcinogen.

In 1990, OSHA proposed a standard that would have reduced the permissible exposure limit (PEL) from the current 1,000 parts per million (ppm) to 2 ppm. That effort bogged down, but last year, union and industry representatives entered direct negotiations on a rule. Their effort recommends that OSHA reduce the BD exposure limit to 1 ppm, and set an action level requiring specific engineering controls at 0.5 ppm.

"OSHA was not directly involved in the negotiations," said Michael Wright, the Steelworkers' director of health, safety and environment. "Even so, the agency was critical to our success. OSHA made it clear that they would go ahead without us. They kept the pressure on."

In January, OSHA Administrator Joseph Dear had made a final BD standard one of the agency's priorities for 1996. That list pared down OSHA's reinvention and standards-setting goals in the face of continuing budget resolutions that have left OSHA with a 16 percent cut in funding, and that threaten the agency with massive layoffs.

The effort to improve worker protections against metalworking fluids also appears to be benefiting from cooperative efforts. Last December, Dear put metalworking fluids on a list of 18 priority safety and health hazards. He asked the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) to recommend a rulemaking process to use in developing a revised standard. A negotiated rulemaking is favored by NACOSH member Henry Lick, manager of industrial hygiene for Ford Motor Co., because of its inclusiveness. Ironically, OSHA may not be able to pursue such a rulemaking because of its cost.

Dear told NACOSH he was encouraged to develop a formal standard by the cooperative nature of a November conference on metalworking fluids in Dearborn, Mich., at which various technical and scientific issues were addressed. In addition, a subcommittee of ANSI's Machine Tool Safety Committee was working last month to finetune a final draft of a proposed standard for controlling emissions from metalworking fluids. …

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