A new OSHA penalty policy will reduce penalties 15 percent for employers who correct violations on the spot during an OSHA inspection, the agency announced in August. The "Quick Fix" abatement incentive program encourages employers to amend less serious problems right away. But reductions will not be given for: violations related to fatal injuries or illnesses, or to a serious incident resulting in serious injuries; violations classified as high or medium gravity; serious, willful, repeat, failure to abate or "blatant" violations that are easily corrected; or temporary or superficial actions. Beginning Sept. 1, 1996, OSHA compliance officers will discuss the Quick Fix program with employers before an inspection.

To the pleasure of labor, President Clinton vetoed the TEAM Act July 30. The labor relations legislation sponsored by Senator Nancy Kassebaum (R., Kan.), which passed the House last September in a 221-202 vote and passed the Senate earlier this month by a vote of 53-46, would have promoted employer-worker cooperation on issues like health and safety, and quality, through nonunion workgroups. Labor groups lobbied against the bill, saying it would encourage company-dominated unions and jeopardize traditional collective bargaining arrangements.

In a move that OSHA says could save employers millions of dollars annually and eliminate thousands of hours of paperwork, the agency last month proposed eliminating regulations that require unnecessary personal protective equipment and medical surveillance that duplicates other rules. For example, OSHA proposes to substitute requirements for semi-annual chest x-rays and sputum exams for workers covered by the inorganic arsenic and coke oven emission standards with an annual chest x-ray requirement, shown in studies to be an effective alternative. And OSHA’s regulations on marking liquefied petroleum gas cylinders, installing LPG systems in commercial vehicles, and ensuring the safety of ammonia transporting trailers would be eliminated because they duplicate Department of Transportation regulations. OSHA is accepting comments on the proposal until Sept. 20, 1996.

Nursing homes in seven states will be the target of a new OSHA outreach and enforcement initiative beginning in September. More than 500 nursing homes in each of seven states -Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania- will be offered free training and education seminars on topics including: back injuries and strenuous lifting; slips and falls; violence; and risks from bloodborne pathogens, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. The Service Employees International Union and the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging will collaborate with OSHA on the outreach effort. OSHA will also practice targeted enforcement within the industry.

OSHA announces a three-year partnership with the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to promote worker health and safety in the healthcare industry. Infection control, life safety, hazmat handling and patient handling will be areas targeted with education programs and collaborative publications. OSHA and the joint commission will also evaluate potentially duplicative compliance activities. A "Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals," to be released later this month, was written by OSHA and joint commission staff to illustrate how compliance with commission standards also satisfies OSHA requirements.

In yet another cooperative arrangement, OSHA forms the Roofing Industry Partnership Program, a one-year pilot program to provide incentives like penalty reductions to participating roofing contractors in three states -Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The labor/management/government partnership is made up of the National Roofing Contractors Association; the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers; CNA Insurance Companies; the National Safety Council; and OSHA. The program will also allow roofing contractors meeting established criteria to apply to be inspected by a stakeholder steering committee to gain recognition as "premier safety contractors."

OSHA fined Richter’s Bakery of San Antonio, Tex., $1 million following an investigation into a fatal February accident in which a worker was asphyxiated in a yeast brew vat. The company was fined for alleged willful violations of the confined space standard, among others. Another Texas employer last month, Trans Texas Gas Corp. of Laredo, agreed to pay OSHA $140,000 in penalties issued after the February death of an employee who fell from a crane-hoisted platform.