19. THE END OF OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH SAFEGUARDS

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created in 1970 to issue and enforce safety standards for workers in U.S. industry. Nonetheless, in the fifth "censored" story of 1979, hula Bingham, then head of OSHA, reported that at least 100,000 workers die each year as a result of occupational disease not workplace accidents. Obviously OSHA has an enormous responsibility for providing safeguards in industry.

But now America's one hundred million workers are being seriously endangered by President Reagan's attempt to weaken, if' not eliminate, OSHA.

The Reagan administration has slashed OSHA's operating budget (staffing has been cut 23% since 1980) and it has appointed top officials who go easy on enforcement.

For example, Thomas Auchter, a construction executive whose company had been repeatedly cited for safety violations, was appointed head of OSHA by Reagan in 1980. Since then, workers safety rules have been changed at the request of industry.

General-schedule inspections are the heart of OSHA's enforcement program. They are unannounced inspections held at various job sites, at random times, throughout the country by trained safety inspectors. Since 1980, they have been called off for extended periods of time.

"Willful violations," where the inspector decides that the company is consciously breaking a safety violation, are almost unheard of, today. Since Reagan's election, the number of such violations has dropped 91% nationally. Another critical category, "serious violations, which represent an imminent threat to life or limb, are down 50%.

In addition to the reduction of inspections and violations, the issuance of new safety standards has come to a complete standstill. This has left OSHA with incomplete and difficult to enforce standards. Also, several career scientists have resigned because of "politics" determining policy. (See 1983 nomination on "Political Research ...".)

At a time when new technologies and chemicals are being introduced into industrial products and processes, it is critical that we have a non-politicized occupational safety and health watchdog. The 100,000,000 American workers whose health and safety are guarded by OSHA deserve to know what President Reagan is doing to OSHA.

Finally, to fully confirm where his real loyalties are, OSHA chief Auchter was recently cited for making a favorable decision affecting DuPont. At the time, Auchter owned $21,900 of DuPont stock.

SOURCES:

THE GUARDIAN, 4/20/83, "After EPA, is OSHA Next?," by Jonathan Bennett; NEW YORK TIMES, 5/7/83, editorial; WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL WEEKLY EDITION, 4/9/84, "Have Stock, Will Act," by Pete Earley.