Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Here they go again, tossing science to the wind. From today's Washington Post:

A bureaucratic shuffle within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prompted a political firestorm among experts in worker health and safety and has reignited questions about the Bush administration's commitment to sound science.
At the center of the storm is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the institute within the CDC that conducts research on workplace illnesses, injuries and deaths.
But the move has drawn protests from virtually every occupational health and safety organization in the country, including some representing labor and others more aligned with corporate management -- groups that usually are at policy loggerheads but that have shared interests in good science.
Opposition also crosses party lines. Letters opposing the change have been signed by every living former NIOSH director back to the Nixon administration and by assistant secretaries for labor and health from both Republican and Democratic administrations.
"This may be the first issue in the last decade that all the worker safety and health stakeholder groups agree on," said Frank White, a Reagan administration labor official who is now vice president of Organization Resources Counselors Inc., an international management and human resources consulting firm that advises on occupational health issues for 150 large corporations. "It's hard to see a reorganization like this making NIOSH more effective."
Each day, an estimated 9,000 U.S. workers sustain disabling injuries on the job, 16 die of work-related injuries and 137 die of work-related diseases, resulting in tens of billions of dollars in direct costs and hundreds of billions in indirect costs, according to government statistics.
Yet NIOSH has often struggled to ensure its independence and at times its survival -- as in the mid-1990s, when the Republican House tried to kill it. Some corporate interests chafe at NIOSH's right to enter workplaces without a warrant when called in by employees to investigate safety issues.
Others suggested the move is part of a larger administration effort to politicize science -- a concern exacerbated by the significant role Kent C. "Oz" Nelson played in designing the Futures Initiative. Nelson is chairman of the CDC Foundation's board of directors and former chief executive of United Parcel Service, which fought the Clinton administration's efforts to set ergonomics standards for preventing workplace musculoskeletal injuries.

No comments: