Labor Secretary Ray Marshall told the United Auto Workers yesterday that the Carter administration is strongly committed to simplification and vigorous enforcement of occupational health and safety rules.

Addressing the concluding session of a three-day UAW legislative conference here, Marshall acknowledged "a lot of trouble" with enforcing job safety rules in the past but said criticism shouldn't undermine the program.

In attempting to draw a distinction between the approach of the Carter administration and previous ones toward carrying out the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which seeks to enforce minimum standards for workers protection, he said.

"We believe in these laws and we're going to try to make them work. There have been people in the past who did not believe in them and therefore did not try to make them work. It's difficult to administer a law you don't really believe in."

At the same time, the government must be "practical and pragmatic" and not build up expectations that it can achieve more than is possible," Marshall said. Hence the government must simplify its safety and health regulations and then "try to really make them work," he added.

The program, administered by the Labor Department, has been criticized by industry as unduly burdensome and by labor as ineffectual. Marshall conceded that "some ridiculous things" were done under OSHA but said some of the criticism stemmed from an "organized campaign" to descredit the purpose of the program, which he described as "absolututely essential."*