Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) is expected to introduce a package of OSHA reform bills in a matter of days, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

The first bill — the "Occupational Safety Partnership Act" — would create a third-party workplace review program. Employers would be allowed to hire qualified third-party occupational health and safety professionals to audit their facility; passing these evaluations would exempt employers from OSHA's routine inspection list for one year.

The bill serves as a catch-all for a variety of measures that have kicked around Washington for years:

  • Alcohol and substance abuse employee testing;
  • Codification of the Voluntary Protection Program;
  • Expansion of the VPP or alternative programs for small business;
  • Technical assistance program;
  • Professional certification and continuing education for certain OSHA personnel;
  • Industry training initiative to educate OSHA personnel.

Sen. Enzi served up a similar package in the last Congress that didn't go anywhere, mostly because of a provision regarding criminal penalties and the section on alcohol and substance abuse testing. AIHA envisions similar opposition this time around.

Bill number two — the "Occupational Safety Fairness Act" — includes measures previously proposed by some of OSHA's staunchest critics. They include:

  • Vacating citations for certain compliance methods;
  • Discretionary compliance assistance (issue warnings rather than citations in some cases);
  • Expanded Inspection Methods (using alternative methods for investigation);
  • Increase membership of Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission;
  • Awarding attorney fees and costs in certain cases;
  • Provide rulings by the Review Commission judicial deference;
  • Extending time to contest citations;
  • Right to correct conditions within 72 hours;
  • Require written statement to employer following inspection;
  • Citations to be issued within 30 days;
  • Contesting citations deadline extended;
  • Allow OSHA to cite employees in certain cases.

AIHA predicts this collection of requirements will be quite controversial.

Bill number three — the "HazCom Simplification and Modernization Act of 2005" — might have the best chance of passage, according to AIHA. It requires OSHA to develop model material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and establishes a commission to consider and make recommendations to Congress on whether or not to adopt the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.