Mine Safety and Health Administration
Contact: (703) 235-1452
June 14, 1995
LABOR DEPT. DENOUNCES ATTEMPT TO GUT SAFETY AND HEALTH AGENCIES
Department of Labor officials today denounced Representative Cass Ballenger's (R-NC) proposed legislation to gut the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and repeal the Mine Safety and Health Administration by merging the two.
"This is not reform, this is retreat," said Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich. "If Congress enacts this legislation, it will be reneging on the promise it made twenty-five years ago to America's workers: the right to a safe and healthy workplace."
Ballenger, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protection, introduced the legislation today.
"Under the Ballenger bill, the worst employers would be given the same treatment as the best employers," said Joseph A. Dear, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "There must be a distinction between employers who place a high priority on protecting their workers and those who treat them as expendable."
The legislation would severely hamper OSHA's ability "to protect workers by:
- crippling OSHA's enforcement authority and mandating that at least 50 percent of the budget be spent on consultation services;
- effectively repealing the provision of the OSH Act that requires that employers provide a safe workplace;
- banning workers from contacting OSHA unless they first raised the problem with their employer -- even when the worker faces an imminent danger on the job and the likelihood of retribution; and
- eliminating NIOSH, the only federal agency that conducts occupational safety and health research.
"America's miners deserve the best on-the-job protection we can give them," said Davitt McAteer, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Mining is a unique and dangerous industry which has led to disabling injuries, chronic lung disease, and death. Repealing the statute would be a serious blow to workers' safety and health."
By repealing the statute and merging the agency with OSHA, the legislation would:
- slash mandatory federal inspections of underground mines from four per year to one;
- end mandatory federal inspections of surface mines;
- eliminate the current surprise factor in mine inspections by canceling mine inspectors' right to check out mine workplaces without a warrant;
- prevent federal mine inspectors from closing an unsafe mine for uncorrected hazards, extreme operator negligence, or a pattern of violations;
- eliminate most penalties for mine operators who violate the law;
- prohibit federal mine inspectors from removing untrained miners from the workplace; and
- limit the rights of miners, including the right to take their own case to court if they have suffered reprisals for maintaining their safety and health rights.