(Washington, DC) – Today, in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing focusing on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) broken process for setting worker safety standards, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pointed to the tragic collapse of Bridgeport’s L'Ambiance Plaza apartments 25 years ago as an example of how delays put workers’ lives at risk.
A recent report by a federal agency showed that since 1981, it has taken nearly eight years on average for OSHA to issue a new safety rule. Some rules take as long as 15 years. Moreover, OSHA has only issued 58 significant rules since 1981 and only 11 since 2000.
Video of the Senator receiving testimony and a complete transcript are included below:
Senator Blumenthal: Thank you Mr. Chairman, I want to thank all of you for being here today. I want to say in recognition of the people here who have come here with photographs, that I am reminded of the tragedy that Connecticut encountered literally 25 years ago almost to the day at L’Ambiance Plaza. As a matter of a fact, I am going to be at a ceremony this coming Monday, marking the 25th anniversary when 28 construction workers lost their lives as result of a construction process known as lift slab that was under review by OSHA. In fact it had been under review for some five years and was eventually found to be unsafe, yet 28 people lost their lives on that day, April 23, 1987, as tons of steel and concrete from an unfinished building came crashing down on them. It is a tragedy that we have recalled every anniversary since, this one being the 25th one. As you have testified Dr. Silverstein, and others have recognized very eloquently, these delays have real life consequences. They have consequences not just in money, and unnecessary medical costs, they have consequences in lives lost. Men and women not coming home from work after leaving their families that morning, as these 28 individuals did that day, 25 years ago. And not coming home to their families as the result of an accident and really a tragedy that could have been avoided. Accident probably is the wrong word because, it was in essence preventable. It could have been prevented if there had been prompt, and even reasonable, review within a period of time that everyone would agree is one that should be met. I have read the GAO report, and I would simply ask Dr. Silverstein whether you think that this report adequately sets forth measures that we can take to address this problem.
Dr. Silverstein: Senator Blumenthal I think that the GAO report did a pretty good job of identifying some of the reasons that OSHA standard setting takes too long. I think it fell short with recommendations. We have presented a number of recommendations here that I think are worthy of consideration. It is unfortunate that the GAO didn’t make those in its own report. But I think that that the report itself supports quite strongly the recommendations that we have made.
Senator Blumenthal: So the report essentially identifies the problems and the reasons and thereby supports going farther than the recommendations have made.
Dr. Silverstein: Well even within the body of the report, a number of the recommendations that we have made explicitly here are noted, but they don’t appear in the recommendation section. So the idea that Congress could direct OSHA to adopt a rule in a more expedited way than currently takes place is something that is in the GAO report and is a possibility, it just wasn’t listed in the recommendation and I believe it should have been.
Senator Blumenthal: Thank you, I would invite comments from any of the other witnesses if they have any.
Mr. Sarvadi: I would like to comment, that I really think the problem with OSHA that we’re making is that they just don’t stick to their priorities. And what the statutory recommendations that we are talking about here do is establish that priority. If OSHA wanted to get a rule done on silica it could have done it in 1979 and 1978 without having to go with all of the exercise that we have gone through since then. The reason it didn’t happen is because I don’t think they understood the significance and the importance of having