CWS Sends Letter To Senate Appropriators

On July 10, the Coalition for Workplace Safety sent this letter to Senators on the Appropriations Committee regarding OSHA’s Letter of Interpretation regarding workplace inspections by non-employee third parties.

CWS Responds To OSHA Interpretation Endorsing Union Representatives on Walk-Around Inspections at Non-Union Workplaces

The Coalition for Workplace Safety has responded OSHA’s “Letter of Interpretation Endorsing Union Representatives on Walk-Around Inspections at Non-Union Workplaces.”

Click here for the letter

See updated letter here

It’s Official: OSHA Overstates Claims of Study on Inspections

(cross-posted from FreeEnterprise.com)

Over in OSHA land, the agency is making a lot of noise over a recently published study that claims OSHA inspections save lives without costing jobs or other deleterious effects.  The study examined the impact of random inspections in California (a state with their own safety agency, not covered by federal OSHA) by comparing injury rates between employers who were inspected and those who were not during the years 1996-2006 .  The study was published in Science suggesting that it has intellectual validity.  According to the summary of the study:

“[S]ome observers claim that workplace regulations damage firms’ competitiveness and destroy jobs and others argue that they make workplaces safer at little cost to employers and employees. We analyzed a natural field experiment to examine how workplace safety inspections affected injury rates and other outcomes… Compared with controls, randomly inspected employers experienced a 9.4% decline in injury rates.  We find no evidence that these improvements came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival.”

However,  OSHA’s assertions that this study ends all debate about the value of inspections are subject to several points of clarification and limitation:

  • Claims that OSHA or state safety agency inspections are responsible for job loss or other specific negative effects are simply a straw man argument that no one has been making.
  • The authors  casually conflate inspections with regulations.  Apparently, (they offer no explanation for interchanging these terms) their thinking is that without regulations, there would be no reason for inspections.  However, these two concepts are entirely independent of each other.  Regulations have an impact regardless of whether a company gets inspected as the employer seeks to comply with them and has to absorb that burden.   At most this study examines the impact of inspections but has nothing to say about the impact of regulations.  Furthermore, we have consistently noted that regulations are necessary to provide guidance and set limits. What we have opposed are poorly developed regulations that are not adequately supported with science, data, or analysis of their impacts.  Mixing and matching significant terms like regulations and inspections undermines the supposed rigor and credibility of this study.
  • This study only looks at examples from 10 years in California. It says nothing about federal OSHA’s current “gotcha” mentality of focusing on ways to impose the maximum amount of penalty.  State safety agencies often conduct themselves differently and have more cooperative relationships with their employers and industries.  Indeed, federal OSHA has criticized Cal OSHA being out of synch with the federal OSHA’s approach to issuing serious and repeat violations.
  • Similarly, the study makes no attempt to look at qualitative aspects of inspections—how did the inspector conduct themselves and whether they provided any information for employers to improve their safety practices?  Inspections can be informative as well as punitive.  To the extent they help educate employers about what should be done, rather than just cite them for what wasn’t done, the inspection will have a greater positive impact.
  • This study says nothing about comparing outcomes from more enforcement with outcomes from more resources being put into cooperative programs or compliance assistance.  We know that the current OSHA administration believes inspections and harsh enforcement are the panaceas towards better workplace safety (“ Enforcement of the law is OSHA’s most important tool for encouraging employers to provide safe workplaces.”—Assistant Secretary David Michaels, February 6, 2012) but this study does not even attempt to suggest that other approaches might yield better results.

For federal OSHA to claim that this study confirms the value of their inspections or their increased reliance on inspections is clearly overstating the value of this study.

US Chamber Files Statement Regarding Senate HELP Committee OSHA Hearing

Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, through David Sarvadi, Esq, filed this statement regarding the Senate HELP Committee’s hearing “Time Takes Its Toll: Delays in OSHA’s Standard-Setting Process and the Impact on Worker Safety”

CWS Issues Letter to Senate HELP Committee Regarding OSHA Hearing

Today, the Coalition for Workplace Safety (CWS), a broad coalition comprised of associations and employers dedicated to improving workplace safety through cooperation, respectfully submitted this letter in response to today’s hearing titled, “Time Takes Its Toll: Delays in OSHA’s Standard Setting Process and the Impact on Worker Safety.”

CWS Letter to OIRA on Combustible Dust

The Coalition for Workplace Safety has issued CWS Letter to OIRA on OSHA GHS-HCS reg

OSHA White Paper Makes Case for Prevention Programs but Not for Regulation

By Marc Freedman – Jan. 17, 2012 (originally posted at FreeEnterprise.com)

On January 10, OSHA inaugurated the New Year by issuing a white paper extolling the virtues of Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (also known as IIPPs, I2P2, or just safety and health programs). The paper discusses the key components OSHA has found in common with effective programs and makes the case that implementation of these programs has resulted in significant, and even dramatic, reductions in work related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. What the white paper fails to do is make the case for a regulation from OSHA mandating these programs which we know is OSHA’s top regulatory priority.

We agree with OSHA that safety and health programs have shown significant benefits for the employers who have implemented them. Notwithstanding OSHA’s analysis that these programs share certain common elements, how these employers implemented these elements is unique to each employer and their workplaces. Such flexibility and individuality is anathema to a regulation mandating these programs. By definition, a regulation entails enforcement. Were OSHA to complete a regulation mandating these programs, they would instantaneously change from being a good idea to being required by law. At that moment, the threshold question is no longer, “How best to implement a safety and health program to improve my workplace’s safety?,” but, “What do I have to do to satisfy OSHA’s inspectors and how will they view my version of these components?” All those who believe OSHA inspectors have the best handle on improving workplace safety in the myriad different types of workplaces covered by the agency, raise your hand.

Employers should be duly skeptical about the enforcement possibilities that such a regulation would trigger. At a minimum, this approach would subject employers to second guessing by an OSHA inspector as to whether they had satisfied the elements of a program as spelled out by OSHA. At a maximum, this could mean that employers would be subject to “double dipping” where OSHA would issue two citations for one hazard–one for the hazard, and one for the faulty safety and health program that failed to flag it.

And let’s not forget the likelihood that OSHA’s mantra of requiring employers under these programs to “find and fix” all hazards would mean that employers would be responsible for “finding and fixing” all ergonomic related hazards. Pity the poor employer whose employee doesn’t sleep well and wakes up with back pain the day the OSHA inspector visits.

That OSHA is determined to move forward with the I2P2 regulation was made clear just days after the release of the white paper when the agency announced it plans to convene the small business review panel of its proposal for a regulation sometime before March 6. Merely claiming that these programs are good ideas is not enough to support this rulemaking.

CWS In Congress and In The News

We recently told you that a Coalition for Workplace Safety spokesperson was set to testify about the priorities for the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. To follow up, here is the written testimony of Stuart Sessions, who received this write-up from Bloomberg:

Stuart Sessions, president of Environomics Inc. in Bethesda, Maryland, whose clients including the American Portland Cement Alliance and American Petroleum Institute, criticized a proposal that would require employers to shield workers from loud noises. The measure was withdrawn Jan. 19 amid complaints and the agency is reviewing alternatives.

The noise requirements would have cost, on average, $3,000 to $10,000 per employee a year for manufacturers with similar expenses for transportation companies, he said.

“This is a very large cost for a policy,” said Sessions, who spoke on behalf of the Coalition for Workplace Safety.

CWS In The News: I2P2 Debate Ahead

“Business and labor are preparing to wage a lobbying battle over a new rule expected later this year that could have a profound effect on how health and safety are handled in the workplace,” reports The Hill. At stake is the future of a potential Occupational Safety and Health Administration plan requiring workplace managers to institute a Injury and Illness Prevention Program (or I2P2). In the story on the coming debate, The Hill kindly includes the voice of the Coalition for Workplace Safety:

OSHA’s focus on the rule has caught the attention of a number of business groups. Members of the Coalition for Workplace Safety, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, have grown concerned about the rule.

“This would be the most sweeping regulation that OSHA has ever put out,” said Marc Freedman, the Chamber’s executive director of labor law policy.

Freedman believes the rule could require employers to identify all hazards in the workplace, even ones not already mitigated for by OSHA.

“There is one school of thought that they would not have to issue another regulation ever again,” Freedman said.

For the rest, click over to The Hill.

Measuring Up: CWS Study, Research Appear In News Story

As employers know all too well, the American economy is dynamic. In other words, any given snapshot or analysis of a policy has to be the best possible estimate of the consequences of any legislation or regulation. In looking at that challenge, the Associated Press (via CNBC) was kind enough to include a reference to a recent Coalition for Workplace Safety effort:

Researcher Stuart Sessions studied potential costs of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration noise-reduction plan that has now been withdrawn. Hired by the Coalition for Workplace Safety, composed of employers and trade associations, Sessions said he did take into account jobs that would be created if new noise-reduction equipment would be required.

Click through for more information.