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NAW News

OSHA Reform

- April 2011

In the 111th Congress, the NAW-opposed “Protecting America’s Workers Act” (“PAWA”) was included in the House Education and Workforce Committee-approved “Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act” but the PAWA provisions were never acted upon by the full House. (The narrower “Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act” failed House passage during the post-election “lame duck” session of the 111th Congress.) In January 2011, Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA-7), the ranking minority member of the workforce panel’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee, reintroduced PAWA. However, this legislation stands no chance of passage in the new GOP-dominated House.
PAWA favors confrontation over cooperation as the better approach to workplace health and safety regulation, and the new House majority prefers consultation to heavy-handed enforcement as the more effective regulatory approach.

However, we believe the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will continue to be actively engaged in new regulatory initiatives during the remaining two years of President Obama’s first term. In January OSHA withdrew from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review a proposed rule aimed at gathering data related to workplace repetitive motion injuries – a rule thought to be a precursor to a more extensive ergonomics rulemaking at some future date – in order to gather additional input from the small employer community. Nevertheless, the agency is actively engaged in that process and the near-term re-appearance of a proposal requiring the addition of a column to the OSHA 300 log for capturing data on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is a distinct and even likely possibility.

Additionally, a proposed “Injury and Illness Prevention Program” (“I2P2”) rule requiring all employers to implement injury and illness prevention programs is thought likely to be promulgated this summer. OSHA indicates that the I2P2 rulemaking will “provide employers the tools necessary to find and fix their own workplace safety and health hazards. Moreover, this rulemaking is projected to enhance worker’s voice and participation in the process, as well as establish guidelines and require employers to implement their own process that proactively addresses workplace safety and health hazards and ultimately reduces workplace injuries and illnesses.”

(For more information on these and similar issues see the separate staff report “Regulatory Agenda and Oversight.”)