The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Jan. 28 proposed a new rule requiring employers to report more detail on musculoskeletal injuries. Business interests fear OSHA's move is just an interim step toward reviving the Clinton Administration's ergonomics regulation, enacted in January 2001 but subsequently blocked by Congress. (See Financial Times, Feb. 3, "Business opposes work safety proposal"; Sacramento Bee, Feb. 24, 2009, "Obama could restore ergonomics work rules.")
OSHA cannot admit its goal is a new ergonomics rule because the agency would run afoul of the Congressional Review Act used to revoke the 2001 regulation. The law stops agencies from re-promulgating disapproved rules without specific legislative approval. [Section 801(b)(2)] Comments from OSHA officials on the possibility of a new ergonomics rule have been all over the map. (Earlier Point of Law posts.) But the Naderites at Public Citizen were not so restrained in the group's release praising the new musculoskeletal mandate:
OSHA states that this recordkeeping change does not imply that the agency will issue a standard related to musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses, commonly known as an ergonomics standard. Public Citizen believes such a standard is needed and urges the agency to issue one without delay.
Apropos Public Citizen, NPR's "Morning Edition" today carried a lengthy report on Toyota's troubles and the role of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The primary interview for the report was Joan Claybrook, identified only as a former head of NHTSA during the Carter Administration -- a scanty description for a woman who targeted the auto industry for two decades as head of Public Citizen. NPR lionized her last August with a piece, "Consumers' Crusader Joan Claybrook Steps Down."
The "Morning Edition" story also brought up the usual allegations of a "revolving door" -- lobbyist to official to lobbyist, with the Bush Administration being the point of complaint. OK, but wouldn't it then warrant mention that the current head of the NHTSA, David Strickland, is a former lobbyist for the American Association of Trial Lawyers? The trial lawyers' lobby, now American Association for Justice, is offering materials to its members designed to aid them in litigation against the car company.