The web address is “working for safety.com” but the Coalition for Workplace Safety is just another well-funded attempt by the National Association of Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce, and more than 20 other industry groups to oppose fundamental improvements to the 40 year old OSHA law. Despite their catchy web address, I was hard pressed to find any information about actual workplace safety. For example, descriptions of hazards and how employers should correct them. It’s the law, after all, for employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards.
The Coalition takes strong exception to H.R. 5663, legislation introduced earlier this month to enhance mine safety protections and modernize just a few provisions of the OSH Act. They say:
“…this package would represent be one of the most sweeping changes to the OSH Act since its inception.”
That’s true. It’s been 40 years since the OSH Act became law and it hasn’t been modernized. I guess any changes to just a few provisions could be characterized as a “sweeping overhaul.” But let’s put the “sweeping” changes into perspective. Take, for example, the changes to OSHA penalties. The average penalty for a serious violation is about $900. The current penalty amounts date back to 1990. HR 5663 will simply adjust them for inflation. Other enforcement agencies like MSHA already make these adjustments. That’s hardly a change worth much ink.
The Coalition says the bill “promotes an adversarial relationship” between employers and OSHA. I’d suggest that groups like this Coalition conjure up that adversarial relationship. Let’s have a reality check. Only 1% of workplaces will receive an OSHA inspection in a given year. A fair number of those inspections are conducted following a worker death or hazard complaint. If the employer is complying with the law, they won’t be cited by OSHA. It’s only employers who are caught violating the law who’ll be assessed penalties. That’s seems like a pretty fair system to me.
One would think that a coalition of businesses who have the web address “working for safety” would want any outlier employers who violate OSHA regulations to be identified and receive tough sanctions. Business leaders say they want a system that promotes fair competition. They should embrace an OSHA enforcement system that identifies companies that cut corners on safety or outright violate the law, and get the book thrown at them.