In four days last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced three major standards, proposed three standards, and announced hearings on the seventh, certified one state program and announced its intent to decertify another, issued three supplemental approvals of state rules, put out one book, issued four films and wrote 16 press releases describing all of this.
And, in the waning days of the Carter administration, the agency's spasm of activity is by no means unique. One measure of the boom in last-minute work is the Federal Register, the daily book that publishes regulations and notices:
Friday it consisted of three volumes, totaling more than 4,000 manuscript pages from federal agencies.
Monday's register will set a record with more than 4,600 manuscript pages. For the first time in the register's history it may be forced to print four volumes in a single day, according to Martha Girard, director of the executive agencies division of the register.
"The Christmas week is normally very heavy, but this year the volume has been kept going on, getting bigger and rolling right on into January," she said. A normal day's register might, run about 1,500 pages of manuscript.
The reason for the outpouring is not hard to define. Before the change of administration on Tuesday, agency officials want to see in place as many rules and programs as they can, to finish projects they have started and leave their mark on government after they depart.
But to the incoming Reagan team, "It's bad news," noted Kenneth Krebs, a transition official. It means just that much more for them to wade through and possibly undo.
Reagan advisor Edwin Meese III said Thursday that the new administration will be "reviewing all the regulations that have come out and that have not yet taken effect. That'll be a routine requirement for each secretary and administrator to do."
Among the agencies putting out a remarkable volume of 11th-hour material was the Council on Environmental Quality. It cranked out seven reports, ranging from 53 to 497 pages, in one week. Subjects of the reports range from pollution threats to the entire globe to a report on chemicals in groundwater.
Work at the Environmental Protection Agency increased to such a point that on Friday the volume of rules, reports, and documents was 75 percent above the normal load, according to one official.
And one staffer said at midday Friday: "It's still coming. Things are still falling out of the woodwork here."
More than a dozen significant regulations, policies, and actions were recorded at the Environmental Protection Agency last week, many of them on Friday. In addition to budget documents, the agency issued regulations on pretreatment of waste required of some industries, new standards governing hazardous waste dump sites, supplemental rules on the burning of hazardous waste, and announced a consent agreement on air pollution reached with two steel companies.
Over at the Federal Trade Commission, eight rules and other documents appeared in the first week of January -- compared to only one in the same week last year -- and five or more are due this week.
The Department of Health and Human Services was about 25 percent busier last week than at the same time last year, according to a department spokesman, who said "that increase may not be because of jamming things through. We have a lot of technical changes, and actions in response to what has been passed in Congress."
Officials at several agencies agreed that most of the work coming out now is not new, but is work that has been cooking for months or years and only now has popped out under the head of a last-chance deadline.
At OSHA, a spokesman pointed out that the actions of last week had been in the works for a long time, one of them even going back six years.
"It is also not a question of just putting any king of sloppy work out just to get it out," the spokesman said. "For example, one final standard we expected to put out this week was instead sent back for more public hearings. Dr. [Eula] Bingham just decided it was not ready."
One federal agency staff worker insisted there is nothing whimsical about the work coming out now, nor is the sudden production much different in kind than the sudden budget-time rushes that occur annually in the government.
"But this is bigger -- bigger than anything I've seen before," he admitted.