Costs outweighing benefits of cost-benefit analysis

Interesting tidbit in Cindy Skrzycki's Washington Post column about OHSA. Charged with protecting the men and women of America who work for a living, OSHA has become, during the Bush administration, the black hole of government: nothing comes out of it, certainly not light. As we found in a recent report, the Bush OSHA has failed to produce a single economically significant protection of workplace health or safety. After dumping Clinton, Bush I, and Reagan initiatives on the grounds he was turning the Unified Agenda from a "wish list to a to-do list," OSHA chief Henshaw has turned the agency's semiannual agenda into a do-nothing list. Why isn't the Bush administration allowing OSHA to protect America's workers? The saga of the hexavalent chromium rule is not unlike other OSHA rules that take years to complete and often involve legal challenges by labor or management when they finally are issued. David C. Vladeck, a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former director of Public Citizen's Litigation Group, said rulemakings for ethylene oxide, cadmium, formaldehyde and now hexavalent chromium took court intervention to get them completed. Public Citizen and various unions petitioned for most of the rules or appealed standards for not being stringent enough. "This is an agency being dragged kicking and screaming into rulemaking," Vladeck said. He said the agency has been starved of resources and that policy decisions made by officials of both political parties inhibited work on the hexavalent chromium rule. OSHA officials counter that the rulemaking process takes longer because it has become more scientifically complex and the agency's "analytical burden" has increased. For example, the hexavalent chromium proposal is 170 pages long, and 95 percent of it is required economic and risk analysis. When that much verbiage is economic and risk analysis, it appears that the cost of cost-benefit analysis outweighs any conceivable benefits -- and hedging against the risk of costly rules instead of quickly acting to protect workers from the risk of death and harm on the job must be causing what White House regulatory czar John Graham so creatively called "statistical murder." Surely cost-benefit champion Graham and do-nothing Henshaw can sleep well... it's only statistical blood on their hands.
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