Slew of OSHA bills soon to come
The first bill â€” the "Occupational Safety Partnership Act" â€” 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 â€” the "Occupational Safety Fairness Act" â€” 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 â€” the "HazCom Simplification and Modernization Act of 2005" â€” 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.