New OSHA Legislation Should Focus on Making Workplaces Safer

By March 16, 2010Labor Unions

Today, the House Education and Labor Committee’s Workplace Protections Sub-Committee will hold a hearing to discuss proposed changes to the Protecting America’s Workers Act (H.R. 2067). Unfortunately, this legislation seeks to simply increase penalties on employers for OSHA violations and expand liability instead of promoting cooperative engagement between employers and OSHA. For OSHA to be successful, manufacturers need the agency to be a resource as much as it is an enforcement agency. This bill and subsequent changes that are likely to be considered overturn more than 15 years of cooperative efforts between OSHA and employers.

For several years we’ve seen continued improvement in workplace injury and illness rates. This improvement is largely the result of a new approach to OSHA that first came about during the Clinton administration. Instead of an approach of just levying higher penalties and issuing more citations, the agency began to proactively work with employers to ensure that they had the resources and information necessary to make workplaces safer.

The goal of any OSHA legislation should be to make workplace safer. This legislation will foster a more adversarial relationship between employers and will not assist employers (particularly smaller sized employers) in better understanding the complex framework of existing OSHA requirements.

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