I noticed on RegInfo.gov that OSHA submitted the draft of its final rule on crane safety to OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on Friday, April 9 for review.  This is an OSHA rule that has been in the works since 2003 (see here, here, here, here, here, here.)  Historically, OIRA staff expect to have 90 days to review major rules like this one. 

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis’ Fall 2009 regulatory agenda indicated her plan to have this final cranes and derricks safety rule published by July 2010.   In a June 2009 post, “What’s next for OSHA’s crane rule,” I describe what I thought were the key decision points for OSHA to address, including: what is an appropriate phase-in period for operator certification?  what should be the minimum standards for certification? how to distinguish between training and certification? and should OSHA adopt the ‘federalism’ language recommended by NYC?  I challenged the Administration to get the rule finished by the end of 2009.  That didn’t happen, but thankfully, it’s moving now.

There are many families around the country who have lost loved ones from crane-related hazards and employers’ disregard for workers’ safety.  Steven Lillicrap, 21, of Maryland Heights, MO, was killed that way. 

This young, unskilled worker was employed by BenHur Construction and on February 3 was fatally injured while disassembling a crane.  OSHA’s St. Louis office did a top-notich investigation and issued a WILLFUL and two serious violations against BenHur Construction.  The proposed penalty was $84,000.   Of course, the company has contested the citations and now the process gets lawyered up.   

When I look at the past history of this Ben Hur company at worksites across the country, it has been cited previously for violating H&S standards and putting its workers’ lives at risk.  Then, its well-paid lawyers manage to convince federal or State OSHA and their attorneys to delete citations, modify violations and reduce penalties.   It’s sickening.  

Don’t we see how companies like this are gaming the system???   I talked with dozens of reporters last week, in the wake of the Massey disaster, about this greedy shenanigans (herehere, here.)   I can just imagine the company lawyers pumping up their chests and probably smugly reminding the nervous DOL attorneys that if they successfully convince the judge that the OSHA or MSHA citation was erroneous, the federal government will be asked to pay their clients’ legal fees.  Under the Equal Access To Justice Act (EAJA)–another part of that monstrosity known as SBREFA that came out of the Newt Gingrich era in Congress—- “small businesses,” defined as those with a net worth of no more than $7 million and not more than 500 employees—can get their legal fees paid if they prevail in litigation with the government.  Talk about another sick incentive to fight OSHA and MSHA citations.

Our worker health and safety prevention system has turned into a big bleep-ing game for companies and their lawyers.   Haven’t we seen enough death and sorrow??  Let’s fix OSHA, MSHA and the Solicitor of Labor’s attorneys so they work again for workers and their families.