Coinciding with National Small Business Week, May 16-22, the House of Representatives passed four bills designed to improve worker safety by making it easier for employers to work voluntarily with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to ensure that workplaces are safe. All four bills were sponsored by Rep. Charlie Norwood of Georgia. Norwood chairs the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
The bills, which passed May 18, are designed to remove the arbitrary and unintentional "legal traps" in current OSHA law that are detrimental to trust and voluntary cooperation between the agency and employers. Before enactment, each bill would need to be passed by the Senate. A brief summary of each bill follows.
The Occupational Safety and Health Small Business Day in Court Act (H.R. 2728)
gives the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission additional flexibility to make exceptions to the arbitrary 15-day deadline for employers to file a response to OSHA citations when a small business misses the deadline by mistake or for good reason. This would ensure that appropriate disputes will be resolved on merit rather than legal technicalities. The bill also provides for recovery of legal fees for very small employers when they prevail in litigation relating to citations issued by OSHA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Efficiency Act (H.R. 2729)
promotes government efficiency and ensures that important workplace safety and health cases are reviewed in a more timely fashion by increasing the membership of OSHRC from three to five members.
The Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act (H.R. 2730)
restores the original system of checks and balances intended by Congress when it enacted the OSHA law. It ensures that the OSHRC ("the court") and not OSHA ("the prosecutor") would interpret the law and provide an independent review of OSHA citations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Small Employer Access to Justice Act (H.R. 2731)
levels the playing field for small businesses and encourages OSHA to better assess the merits of a case before it brings unnecessary enforcement actions to court against small businesses. The bill also provides for the recovery of legal fees for "very small" employers when they prevail in litigation relating to citations issued by OSHA. Very small employers are defined as those having not more than 100 employees and a net worth of not more than $7 million at the time the adversary adjudication was initiated.