Rep. Norwood Introduces OSHA 'Reform' Bills

The four employer-friendly OSHA reform bills Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) introduced Feb. 10 are no different from the ones that died in the Senate last year, but because of changes in the Senate the legislation may stand a better chance this year.

The House approved the bills last year but they went nowhere in the Senate, as the chairman of the Senate Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), did not consider them.

"This year we have a brand new Senate Workplace Safety chairman who'll know what to do when he gets them," said Norwood, the chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, in a written statement.

Norwood was referring to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), the new chair of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over OSHA reform. Isakson, a former congressman and fellow Georgian, served on Norwood's OSHA oversight committee last year and supported the OSHA reform legislation.

"I look forward to these bills coming to the Senate, where our subcommittee will take quick action," promised Isakson.

The four proposed bills are:

  • H.R. 739, which grants the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) additional flexibility to wave the 15-day deadline for employers to file responses to OSHA citations.
  • H.R. 740, which increases the membership of OSHRC from three members to five members to help cut the backlog of cases.
  • H.R. 741, which is designed to clarify and strengthen the power of OSHRC to review OSHA citations.
  • H.R. 742, which allows companies with fewer than 100 employees to recover attorney's fees if the owner successfully challenges an OSHA citation.

Last year Congressional Democrats strongly opposed all four bills.

In a statement, the National Association of Manufacturers announced its strong support for the measures, calling them "critical OSHA bills to help small manufacturers."

While Norwood's bills are assured of consideration by Isakson's subcommittee, for Senate approval the chairman of the full Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) must also agree to put the bills on the calendar.

That is far from certain, because the new chair of the HELP committee is none other than the former subcommittee chairman who ignored the Norwood bills last year: Sen. Mike Enzi.

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