Rely on Occupational Safety & Health ReporterSM for full news coverage and documentation of federal and state workplace safety and health programs, standards, legislation,...
May 25 — The ongoing dispute over OSHA's new rules covering injury and illness recordkeeping and incentive programs moved to Congress May 25 when a House subcommittee took up the issue.
The hearing ended with Republican and Democrat members both stressing their commitment to protecting workers, but little accord was reached on how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should pursue that goal.
“OSHA continues to push for more regulations, for regulations' sake,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, said at the hearing's close.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), the subcommittee's senior Democrat, defended OSHA's effort to publicize employer's injury numbers and called for the subcommittee to pass the Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 2090), a bill with past versions that repeatedly failed to win congressional approval even when Democrats were the majority party.
Much of the hearing and witness testimony focused on the electronic recordkeeping and incentive program rule (81 Fed. Reg. 29,624) OSHA issued May 12 (46 OSHR 477, 5/19/16).
The rule (RIN:1218-AC49) enables OSHA starting in 2017 to post on its website injury and illness data from 488,000 employers. In addition, starting in August, OSHA inspectors will be able to cite employers if the agency concludes the workplace's safety incentive and drug testing programs discouraged workers from notifying supervisors of job-related medical problems and accidents.
David Sarvadi, an attorney with Keller and Heckman LLP representing an employer group, the Coalition for Workplace Safety, called OSHA “a poster child of government high handedness.”
Lisa Sprick, president of Sprick Roofing Company Inc. in Corvallis, Ore., said her company's injury and illness data could be misunderstood by people seeing it without context on OSHA's website, and she called the new incentive rule mandates “ambiguous.”
Attorney Arthur Sapper of McDermott Will & Emery criticized OSHA's proposed rule (RIN:1218-AC84) that would enable OSHA to cite employers for recordkeeping problems dating back five years. The current limit is six months.
Sapper said the rule change would overturn the Volks case ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirming the six-month limit ( AKM LLC v. Sec'y of Labor, D.C. Cir., No. 11-1106, 4/6/12; 43 OSHR 475, 5/16/13).
“OSHA is behaving like an imperial bureaucracy,” Sapper said of OSHA's attempt to overturn the court decision by revising a rule. Sapper represented AKM LLC at the appeals court.
The lone witness called to defend OSHA's efforts was Rosemary Sokas, a former medical officer for OSHA and now chairwoman of the Department of Human Science at Georgetown University's School of Nursing and Health Studies.
The OSHA reporting and recordkeeping changes enacted by the Obama administration are a “tool to identify problems and ensure policies work,” Sokas said.
Making injury data readily available will allow researchers to spot trends and let OSHA focus its limited resources where it will do the most good, Sokas said.
Walberg didn't indicate if the subcommittee or the Committee on Education and the Workforce will consider measures to limit OSHA recordkeeping and incentive rules.
Using the Congressional Review Act to nullify the rules is unlikely since none of the rules qualify as economically significant or have $100 million in economic costs, a requirement for CRA consideration.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at firstname.lastname@example.org .
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)