Assistant Labor Secretary John L. Henshaw said that fewer workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities in a steadily growing workforce should be the measure of the effectiveness of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [letters, Aug. 23]. Perhaps, but certainly not when higher-paying, riskier construction and manufacturing/production jobs are proportionately far fewer than lower-paying, less risky service jobs.
The real measure of OSHA's effectiveness in a service economy such as ours is reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the areas of greatest risk. OSHA is failing this test.
John L. Henshaw and John D. Graham, administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs [letters, Aug. 24], defend the Bush administration's policies on science-based occupational and environmental health regulations against the indictment provided by front-page stories on Aug. 15 and 16.
I worked as a senior science policy analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA for 19 years and as a research physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory for 11 years. In 1994 OSHA proposed a rule to regulate secondhand smoke as a workplace hazard, estimating that it caused 2,200 to 14,000 worker deaths a year, far more than any other toxic hazard to workers. In 1999 the National Cancer Institute endorsed an estimate by the California EPA that passive smoking caused 38,000 to 65,000 deaths a year in the United States from heart disease and lung cancer.
In 2001 the Bush administration abandoned the OSHA rulemaking, stating that "a great many state and local governments and private employers have taken action to curtail smoking in public areas and in workplaces" as a justification.
Since 18 states have legislation precluding total workplace restrictions on smoking, how does abandoning this federal rule prevent workers' deaths?
The writer is a consultant on the effects of secondhand smoke.