AIHA Supports OSHA Reform Bill

The letter from AIHA President Lindsay Booher to U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, sponsor of H.R. 2067, makes additional suggestions and backs higher OSHA penalties on employers whose willful violations result in a worker's death.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association's president has sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, sponsor of H.R. 2067, offering support for her bill. Called the Protecting America's Worker's Act, H.R. 2067 would amend the OSH Act by increasing OSHA penalties for willful violations that result in a fatality; it also would extend OSHA's coverage to public employees.

Booher's letter supports both of those proposed changes but points out there continues to be a debate about whether criminal penalties are adequate to deter health and safety violations. He also said AIHA recommends that the bill emphasize correctly identifying "the person who was truly responsible for the willful violation. AIHA is concerned," the letter continues, "that the health and safety professional will become the 'fall guy' even if an investigation shows that these individuals were making efforts to comply with federal law and their recommendations were overruled or ignored by those with more authority."

The letter points out that H.R. 2067, which has not progressed since being filed by Woolsey and is before the House Education and Labor Committee, where she chairs the Workforce Protections subcommittee, "is another in a long line of legislative measures that attempts to provide the agency with a fresh look at various issues." And nearly every reform attempt has failed "because of the inability of labor, industry and other stakeholders to reach an agreement on the kind of changes necessary and how best to make those changes," it says.

Booher offered three suggested changes: add language requiring Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to devise a process for updating OSHA's permissible exposure limits; add a section increasing the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission from three to five members, which President Obama has supported and which would increase OSHRC's ability to decide appealed cases more quickly; and add language requiring employers to establish written safety and health programs.

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