May 3, 2006

Written Testimony Examining The Use Of Non-Consensus Standards in Workplace Health and Safety

  • Andrew Morriss

    Dean, Anthony G. Buzbee Dean's Endowed Chairholder, Texas A&M University School of Law
Key materials
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The Issue

Many current Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards are based on consensus standards developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).

Our Findings

• This testimony is based on "Defining What to Regulate: Silica & the Problem of Regulatory Categorization," by Andrew Morriss & Susan Dudley, forthcoming in the Administrative Law Review (spring 2006).

• Morriss's testimony combines a review of the history of how the ACGIH consensus standards became so influential, and combines that with law and economic analysis to offer valuable insights for the current debate.

• Economics teaches us that people respond to incentives and groups such as the ACGIH are no exception. A legitimate concern is that this could result in the "capture" of an organization by a set of interest groups.

• The best solution to this problem is to encourage competition among various organizations for evaluating health risks and developing standards. Competition would encourage exposure of inappropriate behavior, force organizations to justify their work product to win acceptance of their standards, and provide a marketplace of ideas about the most appropriate response.

• The problem we thus face is not that private organizations like ACGIH produce standards but that those standards sometimes become ossified through their adoption by government agencies, limiting the incentive to produce competing standards that could develop new solutions.