House and Senate bills to reform the operations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration look like a real boon for all business-particularly tire dealerships and other small companies beset by major fines for minor safety violations. Both bills would make voluntary compliance, rather than citation and penalty, the focus of OSHA workplace safety efforts.
Such reform not only will free employers from arbitrary and excessive OSHA fines and interference-but also encourage them to put their workplaces into compliance and thereby increase employee safety.
OSHA currently has a ``consultation program'' designed to accomplish this objective-but concern over possible penalties keeps many otherwise well-meaning employers from inviting inspectors onto the premises.
The Senate bill, which would waive all OSHA penalties for employers having up to 250 employees and no significant safety violations, looks on its face to be the more favorable from the tire dealer's viewpoint.
But the House bill, which forbids ``arbitrary and subjective'' penalties and gives employers a chance to correct violations before citations are issued, would also be a substantial relief to small businesses. While the House bill has not yet moved out of subcommittee, the Senate seems intent on moving quickly toward passage of OSHA reform.
Labor unions vociferously oppose the bill, claiming it leaves workers without recourse if employers decide to flout safety regulations. However, this ignores the threat of potential employee-filed lawsuits as a means of inducing employers to comply.
Moreover, if OSHA reform passes this Congress, it is up to employers to show workers that safety will not be compromised. The Senate bill mandates employee involvement in workplace health and safety programs; but in any case, employers at least need to show workers they are serious about promoting workplace health and safety, even without the threat of draconian penalties.
Dealers and other tire industry employers should encourage and support such legislation.