A question from Sylvia Schumaker of Cody, WY:
I am very interested in the reform of OSHA. As a small business owner, I own a restaurant in Cody, I have worked very hard to make sure our business complies with OSHA laws. But I am still nervous that all the regulations continue to be met. Is it possible to simplify OSHA laws, especially on small business? If so, how?
Senator Reed responds:
Since its inception in 1970, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has succeeded in cutting workplace deaths in half. Unfortunately, six thousand employees died at work last year, and almost eight million more were injured on the job. Workplace injuries place an enormous drain on our economy, costing $100 billion a year. The goal of OSHA, therefore, should be to efficiently eliminate workplace fatalities and injuries by concentrating on unsafe employers.
At times, OSHA seemed overly concerned with setting new regulations and monitoring paperwork. Since 1993, however, the Clinton Administration, Congress, and OSHA have worked together to make the agency more effective in protecting workers and less onerous to employers. Many of the reforms enacted by OSHA are targeted to help small businesses.
Each year OSHA offers free advice to an estimated 25,000 small businesses. The agency now issues "plain language" guidelines to help make the often complex jargon of new standards easier to understand. It has reduced paperwork citations by 82%. In cooperation with larger firms, OSHA is helping small companies qualify for the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), which encourages compliance without penalty. Finally, training and education programs are targeted particularly to small business employees.
With regard to penalties, OSHA has applied a sliding scale to small businesses, which can reduce fines by up to 80%, depending on the size of the firm. OSHA also waives penalties for minor violations for firms with 250 or fewer employees. All of these reforms further an effort to ensure that workplaces are safe for all employees without unnecessarily burdening employers.
While there is room for improvement, OSHA is moving in the right direction. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Labor Committee to help the agency build upon these efforts.
Senator Enzi responds:
Thank you for contacting me to express your support for OSHA reform.
I certainly understand your concerns about this matter.
One of the central themes of my campaign was the need to reduce the
burdensome and unnecessary regulations on small businesses. I
followed through on this promise when I introduced my first piece of
legislation in the Senate, the Safety and Health Advancement Act of
1997. This bill is a modernization and improvement of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. It lessens the punitive
aspects of OSHA enforcement and focuses more on cooperation among
employers and employees. It represents a clean, fresh start to
addressing the problems that affect OSHA, employers, and employees. I
am confident that this bill will be a successful measure to improve
the safety of our workplaces.
If you would like more detail please visit my Web site at
I look forward to visiting Cody again soon.
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