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NAW News

OSHA Reform

Legislative Issue Update - July 2010

NAW-opposed legislation to amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) in ways that are highly problematic for employers has been introduced in the 111th Congress. In April 2009, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-6) introduced H.R. 2067, the “Protecting America’s Workers Act (“PAWA”). Similar legislation (S. 1580) was introduced last summer by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), then Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Twenty-three Democratic Senators are cosponsors, including 9 of the 13 Democrats now serving on the HELP Committee.

In the House, PAWA is cosponsored by 103 Democratic House Members, including 22 of the 30 Democratic Members of the Education & Labor Committee to which the bill has been referred, and 10 of the 13 Democratic Members of the Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee before which the measure is pending. Two days of subcommittee hearings were held this spring. 

An increase in “whistleblower” protections, employees’ right to refuse hazardous work, increased civil and criminal penalties and an extension of criminal liability exposure to corporate officers, and a new requirement that employers abate violations for serious hazards even while contesting an OSHA citation are among the bill’s most troublesome provisions.

If an effort is undertaken to move this legislation forward, NAW will strongly oppose it with our allies in the Coalition for Workplace Safety.

On the regulatory front, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has signaled its intention to resurrect a large-scale ergonomics rulemaking, by promulgating a proposed rule aimed at gathering data related to workplace repetitive motion injuries. On March 30th, NAW joined 18 allied trade associations representing a broad segment of the employer community in comments critical of the OSHA rulemaking. This initiative is widely viewed as a precursor to an expected subsequent effort to proceed with a rulemaking reminiscent of that unsuccessfully sought by the Clinton Administration a decade ago. As was the case in the earlier instance, the employer community including NAW will vigorously resist this effort.

Going forward, OSHA is expected to be a hotbed of regulatory activity, among which are three occupational injury and illness recording and reporting requirements (including the musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) column proposal referenced above), injury and illness prevention programs (“I2D2”), and hazard communication.