Earlier, this year, a small manufacturer was ordered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to clean up the pollution inside the plant, and to make the working place cleaner and safer for employees.
At some considerable expense, the manufacturer compiled with the OSHA order and installed new equipment that directed the pollution outside of the plant.
Then the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in - the manufacturer now was guilty of polluting the environment.
One of the biggest problems facing the business community today is the lack fo coordination between the federal agencies that regulate business.
But a pilot offort by four of those agencies to work together in an attempt to cut down on duplication and contradiction in the field of toxic and hazardous substances appears to have gotten off to a fine start.
The stationery printed up for the interagency task force is a milestone itself. There, on top of one sheet of stationery, is a masthead with four different agency names:
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"That's the first time there has ever been stationery with four agency heads on it," said S. John Byington, head of the CPSC. "And it is an example of one of the most specific and concrete ways the government can improve regulations."
The concept behind the interagency Regulatory Liaison Group is a simple one: The group is responsible for easing communications between the agencies involved when they are working in areas of common interest.
The group can help prevent two or more agencies from developing the same regulations, or can easily provide the names of people in each working on a given problem.
If, for example, someone in CPSC is working on the Tris case, he or she could quickly find out from the liaison member at CPSC, who is handing Tris at the FDA.
The cooperation is helpful even in defeat. If one of the agencies loses an action in court, there can be interagency discussion about the weaknesses of the government stand on the issue, and why the case was lost. Other agencies could kearn lost. Other agencies could learn court case.
Eight different work groups of staff members from each of the four agencies have been formed within tha task force. Each agency chairs two of the work groups.
Work plans already have been drafted by seven of the groups and are in draft form for consideration by the task force next month.
The work group on Research Planning, for example, has three immediatte goals.
The group wants all four agencies to document and coordinate existiing research projects, jointly plan and coordinate budgets for selected mutual interest programs, and develop a comprehensive action plan for including non-regulatory research progras in regulatory decision making.
The Testing Standards and Guidelines work group called for such things as a common vocabulary and standardized guidelines to make testing efforts more universal.
The work group on Compliance and Enforcement has Developed several goals. The group called for specific plans for action coordinated by the four agencies in the event of health and environmental emergencies, personal exchanges among the agencies, the development of a common list of expert witnesses for the agencies to draw on coordination of laboratory facilities, monitoring of various compliance actions, coordination of inspection resources, and establishment of common or compatible investigational forms. [WORDS ILLEGIBLE]
A crucial work group is the Information Exchange Group. It is studying common identification codes that would make each agency's files more understandable to the others, development of common procedures concerning technical security and the handling of proprietary information, and the coordination or reporting requirements to the agencies by private industry.
The last is of great interest to industry because it could mean streamlined reporting practices, and perhaps eventually, a uniform report made by a company that goes to several agencies.
The other work groups have ambitious programs for unprecedented cooperation.
If the task force continues to work smoothly, it can be expected that other liaison groups will be organized on different subjects - like carcinogens - to help smooth the regulatory process.
"This is a real chance to improve regulation," said Byington. He admitted though, that these kinds of efforts usually "happen to regulate the same thing, or nobody wants to to regulate it."