OSHA, Small Business Group Form Alliance

OSHA's effort to improve workplace safety through cooperative agreements has broken new ground, as the agency signed a formal alliance with a traditional adversary, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

The agreement is supposed to make health and safety information and compliance assistance resources available to all employers, with a particular focus on small and independent businesses, and also intended to help communicate the need for the implementation of safety and health management systems programs in the workplace.

"Small and independent businesses represent the vast majority of all employers in our country," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the lives of thousands of workers."

NFIB supports legislation recently approved by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would make it easier for small businesses to fight OSHA citations. Democratic opponents of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., argue the measure would cripple OSHA enforcement. OSHA has taken no position on the Norwood bill, which has yet to be considered by the Senate.

NFIB also generally opposes efforts by OSHA to develop new workplace regulations, and helped lead the fight to defeat the Clinton administration's ergonomics standard.

Under the Bush administration OSHA has stepped away from aggressive rulemaking, placing greater emphasis on voluntary guidelines, cooperative agreements, and compliance assistance.

NFIB President Jack Faris appears to like OSHA's new approach.

"The NFIB is very pleased that OSHA is showing an even deeper commitment to a cooperative approach to improving workplace safety," he commented in a statement. "Helping small business understand the value of safety will make the workplace even safer for employees and more profitable for their employers."

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