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November 23, 2005

Enzi Releases OSHA DeForm Turkeys Into Senate

By Jordan Barab, reprinted from Confined Space

Well he's gone and done it.

Despite a thorough trashing in Confined Space last week, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) has introduced his OSHA Deform legislation: S. 2065 -- the Occupational Safety Partnership Act, S. 2066 -- the Occupational Safety Fairness Act, and S. 2067 -- the HazCom Simplification and Modernization Act of 2005.

As might be imagined, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)praised Enzi's bills, for allegedly implementing "voluntary, solutions-oriented workplace safety initiatives rather than enforcing unrealistic standards that impose undue burdens on small companies."

They are, of course, full of crap.

In a rather ominous statement, NAM President John Engler "These bills are a good first step in bringing effectiveness and fairness to the OSH Act." A good first step? What else do these jokers have planned?

The AFL-CIO is preparing to mount a major campaign against the bills.

As I described last week, Enzi's "Partnership" bill (S. 2065) promotes partnering between OSHA and industry by promoting unproven voluntary programs and allowing companies to self-certify compliance through audits by third parties. But unlike Enzi's previous "partnership" bills, this one does not even require employers to set up a comprehensive safety and health program. And, as I mentioned before, in order to buy more business contributions support, it eliminates the provision in the earlier Enzi bill to make criminal penalties a felony instead of a simple misdemeanor, which they are under the current law.

The "Fairness" bill (S. 2066) unfairly penalizes workers by rolling back and weakening OSHA enforcement. It makes it virtually impossible for OSHA to cite employers, allows OSHA to penalize employees adopts Charlie Norwood's small business "relief" bills passed in the House last summer.

The HazCom bill (S. 2067) starts the process of bringing the U.S. up to international chemical Right-to Know standards by setting up a commission to examination the adoption of a globally harmonized hazard identification and communication system. It has widespread support.

Enzi, who clearly doesn't read Confined Space, justified the bills, saying that

Cooperation, not confrontation is essential in making our workplaces safer. The notion that employers care little about worker safety, or are prepared to sacrifice worker health in the pursuit of profit is a dangerous myth.

In fact, most employers are concerned for the welfare of their employees and are fully prepared to comply with laws aimed at enhancing their safety on the job. This package of bill will provide employers new opportunities to protect their important assets—hard working employees.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

OK, Senator, so most employers are concerned about the welfare of their important assets. Maybe that's true, but what about the other ones, the ones who are, in fact, prepared to sacrifice worker health in the pursuit of profit. They will also be the beneficiaries of your version of "partnership" and "fairness."

In fact, they're already getting away with murder. How will these bills make it better? Particularly since you've even dropped the only crumb -- making criminal penalties a felony -- that would have made it easier to punish them.

What a turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by Jordan Barab at November 23, 2005 07:27 AM