Sunday, November 30, 2008

Labor Department Lowers Bar for Worker Safety

The Bush Administration's Labor Department has enacted last minute regulations reducing safety for US workers. The new policies would allow for the use of highly toxic materials until there are lengthy industry-specific studies showing ill effects on workers.

According to the NY Times, the Labor Department and its sub-departments "control work-related substances such asbestos, benzene, cotton dust, formaldehyde, lead, vinyl chloride and blood-borne pathogens... the department is constantly considering whether to take steps to protect workers against hazardous substances. Currently, it is assessing substances like silica, beryllium, and diacetyl...."

Although the policy was opposed by the Senate, the Department has the right to enact such measures. The policy was supported by the US Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying group that supports anti-worker policies.

This anti-worker regulation is not the only rule change from Washington. According to the NY Times additional regulations "would allow coal companies to dump rock and dirt from mountaintop mining operations into nearby streams and valleys. Another, issued last week by the Health and Human Services Department, gives states sweeping authority to charge higher co-payments for doctor’s visits, hospital care and prescription drugs provided to low-income people under Medicaid."1


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