Thorne G. Auchter, chief of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has written Ralph Nader that his group's recent study of OSHA was "flawed and biased" and could harm Nader's reputation as a "government watchdog and a so-called consumer advocate."

Auchter said that after reviewing the study by the Center for the Study of Responsive Law he had concluded that it contained "inaccurate and misleading statements, undocumented opinion and unrepresentative anecdotes to support its preconceived conclusions."

Auchter said the study, which was released on Labor Day, contained 47 statements that either were incorrect or misleading and another 80 statements that were undocumented or "simply reflect the speaker's personal opinion."

Specifically, Auchter said the study's author, Philip Simon, claimed to have spoken to "dozens of OSHA field inspectors." Based on those interviews, the study said, "Discontent simmers amongst the OSHA ranks."

Auchter said it was impossible to tell from the study how many inspectors were interviewed, since the report didn't identify the officials, or when the same official was quoted twice. But "even if all the quotes were from different people," he said, "33 inspectors would represent about 3 percent" of OSHA's 1,100 inspectors.

Reached by telephone, Simon said he had reviewed the 47 examples that Auchter had identified as errors and had concluded that most of them were "simply nitpicking . . . . "

Simon said he spoke with 70 or 80 OSHA officials, many of whom weren't quoted in the study. "We had a significant sample," he said. "We stand by the study."