Labor to slash red tape

The Labor Department on Wednesday issued a slate of new rules designed to reduce overly burdensome red tape facing employers and remove a set of obsolete regulations from the agency’s books.

One final Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule alone is expected to save employers more than 613,000 hours of worth of unnecessary paperwork, the agency said.

That rule involves powerful mechanical power presses, which are used to punch, form or assemble metallic materials. If not properly maintained, the machines can wear down, increasing the risk of injury to their operators.

The result can be lost fingers, hands or even arms, the agency said.

The new rule eliminates requirements on firms to document weekly inspections of the presses, while clarifying that the employers are responsible for maintenance and repairs necessary to protect worker safety.

At the same time, the agency is deferring to the American National Standards Institute’s standard for mechanical power press safety.

The rules are slated to take effect in February, unless the agency hears substantial opposition during a public comment period set to remain open for the next 30 days.

“The rules announced today maintain standards, lessen the burden on employers and help grow our economy,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor overseeing OSHA.

Meanwhile, Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification, a branch of the Employment and Training Administration issued a trio rules rescinding regulations employment regulations that have become obsolete.

The rules involve employment of foreign workers in the logging and nursing industries, and the hiring of foreign students as part time workers.

In each case, other regulations or statutes now in place govern the practices, making the rules rescinded this week redundant.

Together, the actions reflect steps taken in accordance with President Obama’s 2012 executive order instructing agencies to identify and scrap unnecessary regulations.