OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
With its premiere new partnership program on hold pending a court ruling, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today resumes traditional enforcement operations, opening comprehensive inspections in more than 70 cities across the country.
OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress called the return to traditional enforcement a "second-best but necessary step" for the agency, which had offered voluntary partnerships to 12,000 employers with the highest injury and illness rates in the country.
"The safety and health of American workers must be protected while we defend common-sense partnership in the court," Jeffress said. "We have no choice but to resume traditional enforcement because we are unable to proceed at this time with a program that most employers wanted, that protected workers, and that enabled us to put our limited resources where they could do the most good."
The Cooperative Compliance Program (CCP), unveiled in November 1997, gave employers the option of traditional enforcement or working with OSHA to reduce workplace hazards and receiving a reduced chance of inspection. Of the 12,000 employers invited to join CCP, more than 10,000 -- or 87 percent -- accepted. The partnership program was hailed as a significant step forward for the New OSHA, which is dedicated to common-sense enforcement and regulation.
But on Feb. 3, 1998, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. to block implementation of the CCP. The Court did not rule on the merits of the case but stayed the program while it proceeds to consider the issue. OSHA has sought an expedited review, but a final decision is not expected for several months.
In the meantime, on April 6, the Court also ruled that the pending lawsuit did not preclude OSHA from implementing an interim plan for targeted inspections. That ruling provides the basis for the agency's return to traditional enforcement.
Inspections beginning today focus on a pool of 3,300 employers in 99 industries. They represent workplaces with injury and illness rates at or above the national average for their industry. The companies were chosen through injury and illness data they were required to provide to OSHA. Employers whose workplaces are inspected will not be able to enter into the partnership agreements with OSHA that were a key element of the CCP.
Under the CCP, employers entering into partnerships with OSHA would have enjoyed reduced chances of inspections, possible penalty reductions and added technical assistance in correcting workplace hazards.
"I think most employers would prefer partnership with OSHA," Jeffress said. "The CCP enjoyed bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. And we received letters from a wide range of private-sector organizations, including employers and insurance companies, that applauded the partnership approach. What's more, several wrote expressing their disappointment when the program was halted by the lawsuit."
The CCP was modeled on the Maine 200 Program which won an Innovation in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and a Hammer Award from Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review. Similar programs in eight other states showed great success in reducing injury and illness rates, lessening hazards in the workplace and lowering workers compensation costs for companies. The eight other states were Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
An opening brief from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the pending lawsuit is expected in the appeals court on April 20; the Labor Department's response is due on May 20. No date for oral arguments has been set. Joining the Chamber of Commerce in its lawsuit against OSHA were the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Trucking Associations and the Food Marketing Institute.
Instructions for implementing the targeted enforcement program unveiled today have been distributed to OSHA inspectors around the country. The notice, Directive Number 98-1, is also posted on the agency Internet site at http://www.osha.gov.
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