Workers Comp Zone


My car keys are on a digital clock that counts down the days, hours and minutes til the end of the Bush Presidency.

This hapless POTUS failed to press a war that needed to be won decisively against the Taliban and Qaeda (Afghanistan) and put us in a war that didn’t need to be fought (Iraq). Trillions poorer, while we’re nation building in Iraq, we’re ever closer to the day when we’ll see a nuclear bomb in the hands of Islamists in Pakistan or Iran. Don’t get me started. The “war” will not be ending soon, though the focus may be shifting.

But enough of the soapbox. Meanwhile, at home, worker rights have been under attack.

The latest example? Bush appointees are rushing to redefine “working life”. It’s a concept that has immense consequences for worker safety regulation of on the job toxins.

As of last week, the official proposal had not been publicly announced, but the proposal had been obtained by the Washington Post. The revised regulation would allow business additional rounds of challenges to risk assessments involving chemicals and toxins.

What’s the beef over “working life”?

Current regulations assume an average 45 year work life (age 20 to age 65). It’s that worklife span that is used to measure the health effects of toxic chemicals on workers.

Bush regulators want to dump the 45 year assumption on the theory that most workers nowadays will not stay at one employer for that long.
The proposal would focus on how long workers actually remain on the job. But that’s a difficult concept to measure, and the science behind the changes assumptions may be shaky.

The change has been pushed by industry-friendly conservative think-tanks. For example, the Hudson Institute’s Diana Furchgott-Roth did a piece on the issue in the New York Sun. To be fair and present a range of viewpoints, here is Furchgott-Roth’s justification for the rule change: … nt=6530008

Congressional committees will be looking at the issue closely. Among those concerned are Ted Kennedy and the Bay Area’s George Miller (D-Martinez), whose district includes many workers toiling in chemical plants and oil refineries.

Adding to the concern over the proposed rule is the fact that Bush Administration Labor Secretary Elaine Chao was less than forthcoming about the proposed rule. Public notice of regulatory changes were not filed, and the item only surfaced on the Office of Management and Budget’s website (OMB), which indicated it was reviewing the proposal.

This lends credence to the charge that Bush will attempt to give big chemical and manufacturing companies a final present as his administration exits stage right.

Stay tuned. I’ll continue to cover the issue.

For those who want to become more involved in workplace safety issues, I’d recommend checking out the website of

Julius Young
www.boxerlaw. com
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Category: Political developments