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1976. SAFETY AND HEALTH PROGRAMS (FOR GENERAL INDUSTRY AND THE MARITIME INDUSTRIES)

Priority: Economically Significant. Major under 5 USC 801.

Unfunded Mandates: Undetermined

Legal Authority: 29 USC 651; 29 USC 655; 29 USC 657

CFR Citation: 29 CFR 1910; 29 CFR 1915; 29 CFR 1917; 29 CFR 1918

Legal Deadline: None

Abstract: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), many of the States, members of the safety and health community, insurance companies, professional organizations, companies participating in the Agency's Voluntary Protection Programs, and many proactive employers in all industries recognize the value of worksite-specific safety and health programs in preventing job-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. The reductions in job-related injuries and illnesses, workers' compensation costs, and absenteeism that occur after employers implement such programs dramatically demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs. In 1989, OSHA published nonmandatory guidelines to help employers establish safety and health programs (54 FR 3904). Those guidelines were based on a distillation of the best safety and health management practices observed by OSHA in the years since the Agency was established. OSHA has decided to expand on these guidelines by developing a safety and health programs rule because occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities are continuing to occur at an unacceptably high rate. For example, an average of about 17 workers were killed each day in 1997. This number does not include an estimated 137 daily deaths associated with job-related chronic illnesses.

Safety and health programs include the following core elements: management leadership; active employee participation; hazard identification and assessment; hazard prevention and control; information and training; and program evaluation. In response to extensive stakeholder involvement, OSHA has, among other things, focused the proposed rule on significant hazards and reduced burdens on small business to the extent consistent with the goals of the OSH Act.

Statement of Need: Worksite-specific safety and health programs are increasingly being recognized as the most effective way of reducing job-related accidents, injuries, and illnesses. Many States have to date passed legislation and/or regulations mandating such programs for some or all employers, and insurance companies have also been encouraging their client companies to implement these programs, because the results they have achieved have been dramatic. In addition, all of the companies in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs have established such programs and are reporting injury and illness rates that are sometimes only 20 percent of the average for other establishments in their industry. Safety and health programs apparently achieve these results by actively engaging front-line employees, who are closest to operations in the workplace and have the highest stake in preventing job-related accidents, in the process of identifying and correcting occupational hazards. Finding and fixing workplace hazards is a cost-effective process, both in terms of the avoidance of pain and suffering and the prevention of the expenditure of large sums of money to pay for the direct and indirect costs of these injuries and illnesses. For example, many employers report that these programs return between $5 and $9 for every dollar invested in the program, and almost all employers with such programs experience substantial reductions in their workers' compensation premiums. OSHA believes that having employers evaluate the job-related safety and health hazards in their workplace and address any hazards identified before they cause occupational injuries, illnesses, or deaths is an excellent example of "regulating smarter," because all parties will benefit: workers will avoid the injuries and illnesses they are currently experiencing; employers will save substantial sums of money and increase their productivity and competitiveness; and OSHA's scarce resources will be leveraged as employers and employees join together to identify, correct, and prevent job-related safety and health hazards.

Summary of Legal Basis: The legal basis for the proposed rule is a preliminary finding by the Secretary of Labor that unacceptably high injury, illness, and fatality rates can be substantially reduced by getting employers to systematically comply with their existing duty to control hazards under sections 5(a)(1) and 5(a)(2) of the OSH Act. The rule is also reasonably related to achieving the purposes of the Act, and would essentially require employers to conduct periodic inspections of the workplace and to inform employees about the hazards they find.

Alternatives: In the last few years, OSHA has considered both nonregulatory and regulatory alternatives in the area of safety and health program management. First, in 1989, OSHA published a set of voluntary management guidelines designed to help employers set up and maintain safety and health programs. Although these guidelines have received widespread praise from many employers and professional safety and health associations, they have not been adequately effective in reducing job-related deaths, injuries, and illnesses, which have continued to occur at unacceptably high levels. Many States have also recognized the value of these programs and have mandated that some or all employers establish them; this has led to inconsistent coverage from State to State, with many States having no coverage and others imposing stringent program requirements.

Anticipated Cost and Benefits: OSHA preliminarily estimated the overall program costs of the draft proposed rule provided to the SBREFA Panel for this rule for all covered employers to be about $2.3 billion per year. The Agency also preliminarily estimated that 580,000 to 1,300,000 injuries and illnesses and 416 to 918 fatalities would be avoided each year as a result of the rule. OSHA preliminarily anticipates that employers will have direct cost savings associated with this reduction in the number of injuries and illnesses of approximately $7.3 billion to $16.5 billion per year.

Risks: Workers in all major industry sectors in the United States continue to experience an unacceptably high rate of occupational fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. For 1996, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 6.2 million injuries and illnesses occurred within private industry. For 1997, BLS reported that 6,218 workers lost their lives on the job. There is increasing evidence that addressing hazards in a piecemeal fashion, as employers tend to do in the absence of a comprehensive safety and health program, is considerably less effective in reducing accidents than a systematic approach. Dramatic evidence of the seriousness of this problem can be found in the staggering workers' compensation bill paid by America's employers and employees: about $54 billion annually. These risks can be reduced by the implementation of safety and health programs, as evidenced by the experience of OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program participants, who regularly achieve injury and illness rates averaging one-fifth to one-third those of competing firms in their industries. Because the proposed rule addresses significant job-related hazards, the rule will be effective in ensuring a systematic approach to the control of long-recognized hazards, such as lead, which are covered by existing OSHA standards, and emerging hazards, such as lasers and violence in the workplace, where conditions in the workplace would require control under the General Duty Clause of the Act.

Timetable:

Action Date FR Cite

NPRM To Be Determined  

Regulatory Flexibility Analysis Required: Yes

Small Entities Affected: Businesses

Government Levels Affected: State

Federalism: Undetermined

Additional Information: A separate rule is being developed for the construction industry (29 CFR 1926). OSHA will coordinate the development of the two rules.

Agency Contact: Marthe B. Kent, Director, Directorate of Safety Standards Programs, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Room N3609, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, FP Building, Washington, DC 20210
Phone: 202 693-2222
Fax: 202 693-1663

RIN: 1218-AB41


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