The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been taken to task by the Office of Management and Budget for failing to keep pace with the Reagan administration's regulatory relief agenda. In a letter obtained by The Washington Post, Christopher DeMuth, administrator for information and regulatory affairs, wrote Labor Department Solicitor T. Timothy Ryan Jr. last month that all four of the OSHA regs targeted for review in 1981 by the Presidential Task Force on Regulatory Relief "are behind schedule."

DeMuth said that according to discussions with OSHA and the department, the expected publication dates are now October for the cancer policy and commercial diving standard and January for the occupational noise standard. No target date has been set yet for rules to allow companies to replace workplace engineering controls with individual protective devices.

DeMuth also noted that no target date has been set for a cotton dust proposal and that the standard for occupational exposure to lead is not due until November. "These dates represent slippages of dates submitted to OMB last summer, and we are worried that they may slip further," he said.

DeMuth said the situation presents "a troublesome regulatory lag" and that because the targeted regs "are cost-ineffective," ways should be found to accelerate the schedule. "We especially would recommend acceleration" of the cancer and engineering control regs.

He recommended that OSHA concentrate on "expediting" the review of existing regs and spend less time on new projects, such as developing a program to alert workers to hazardous materials in the workplace, and writing new standards for asbestos, ethylene dibromide and ethylene oxide. DeMuth also suggested that OSHA spend less time on safety-related regs and more on health-related ones, because workers are more apt to be aware of safety problems than of the risk of potential illnesses.

An OSHA press aide said the agency is "aware of the letter" and is "taking a look at the suggestions and is considering them." She said OSHA has a regulatory management system in place and the agency is "working as fast as we can" to complete its work.