A congressional study finds the government's chief worker health agency is spending "virtually no money" protecting those in America's most hazardous occupation, agriculture.
The report by Mary Jane Bolle, a congressional labor economist, suggests the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has poured resources into easier inspections of businesses such as construction at the expense of farm-related oversight.The report was entered into evidence Wednesday during a sweeping Senate review of OSHA operations under President Reagan along with information supplied by United Press International showing the agency systematically has ignored farm-worker safety while encouraging few inspections or penalties.
"Construction is not the most hazardous industry under the OSHA umbrella," Bolle told the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee in the second of two days of public hearings. "Agriculture, where workers have a fatality rate that is almost 60 percent higher than the rate for construction workers, is the most hazardous. Yet OSHA spends virtually no money for agriculture."
Bolle's study suggests that focusing OSHA efforts on training and education alone could reduce lost-workday injury rates significantly.
In related testimony to fellow senators, committee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said the administration's Office of Management and Budget, supported by Vice President George Bush, urged the weakening of OSHA regulatory plans.
"Let's not whitewash the action taken both by the OMB and by the vice president," Kennedy said at one point. "These (actions) were taken in Bush's presence and at his urging."
The senator's remarks were based on minutes of a meeting among Bush, OSHA and OMB officials in which the Republican presidential aspirant urged complete cooperation with Reagan's budget office against the wishes of OSHA scientists who sought stronger actions against various industries.
The memo, dated March 28, was prepared by OSHA policy chief Michael DeBooty, who was not available for comment Wednesday.