The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is in the process of promulgating controversial silica dust regulations, which have prompted considerable comments and criticism over the rules’ exposure limits, and costs imposed on small businesses engaged in sandblasting operations. The proposed silica dust rules contain for the first time, a request from OSHA that parties commenting on the rules disclose funding sources, financial backing and relationships to any other organizations interested in the rulemaking.
While not mandatory, the disclosure request has raised concerns by businesses and interest groups that follow OSHA rulemaking procedures. These groups contend that OSHA will use this information to attack the motivation of the commenting parties, instead of focusing on the merits of the points raised in the comments. They believe that the voluntary nature of the request is misleading, because failure to make such disclosures could result in later claims that the commenter was attempting to conceal such affiliation.
OSHA defends the request on the grounds of promoting transparency in the rulemaking process. However, this move could have the effect of deterring free and open dialog about proposed OSHA rules if the commenting parties fear that their participation in the process will result in attacks on their credibility and motivation based solely on those affiliations.