The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday passed four workplace safety reform bills aimed helping small businesses work with OSHA. The series of legislative initiatives, introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA) in February, received bipartisan approval.

“There is almost no limit to the regulatory burdens imposed on employers every year," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) following the passage of the bills. "[Tuesday's] actions by the House improve worker safety and help enhance competitiveness for the small businesses that help create jobs here in America."

The legislation seeks to improve workplace safety through, what Norwood calls, the reforming of heavy-handed OSHA enforcement tactics against small businesses and improve working relationships between the federal agency and small businesses.

The four pieces of legislation are:

  • H.R. 739 allows OSHA to make exceptions to a 15-day deadline for employers to respond to claims filed against them by employees. Currently, if employers don't respond, they lose out on their day in court, even due to circumstances beyond their control.

  • H.R. 740 will increase the OSHA Review Commission from three to five members. At its current size, the commission frequently delays hearings because it does not have a quorum. The measure is designed to address this problem.

  • H.R. 741 restores the OSHA Review Commission back to its original intent to act as a check against OSHA bureaucrats. The commission, which serves as an autonomous and independent reviewer of claims, will be the party to interpret OSHA regulations, not OSHA itself.

  • H.R. 742 requires OSHA to reimburse attorney's fees to small businesses in the event the commission makes a judgment in favor of a small business. The bill defines a small business as a company with 100 people or less and having a net worth of no more than $7 million dollars.

    Opponents of the legislation argue the bills will weaken OSHA by making it easier for employers to challenge an OSHA citation, stacking the OSHA Review Commission with Bush appointees, and encouraging more litigation against OSHA.