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OSHA Goes Before House Oversight Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs

On March 16th, the House Oversight Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs held a hearingtitled: “Regulatory Impediments to Job Creation: The Cost of Doing Business in the Construction Industry”. The hearing consisted of two panels.

First: mostly engineering and construction business community and academia. Second: Federal officials from GSA, WH, and OSHA. For those interested in OSHA, the second panel will be of greater interest to you.

The Panel2 is a little more than an hour long. Much of the hearing covers two basic areas. One being PLA (Project Labor Agreements and how are they are being implemented as taxpayer funded projects) and the other generally covering OSHA. But if you want to get to the meat of the hearing from an OSHA perspective, I suggest forwarding and viewing these 2 key sections: 45:00 through about 57:00 and 1:03:00 through the end. It’s a bit of an eye opener considering that it conflicts with previous messages from the Secretary of Labor as well as the White House itself.

Click here for the video: Panel 2: House Oversight Hearing

Specifically, Dr Micheals states unequivically that what is needed is more regulations. And that’s when the discussion took a series of interesting twists. OSHA stated that regulations are needed to clarify for employers what is needed to properly protect their workers. Meanwhile, the Committee was quick to point out that if “clarification” will do the trick, then why not just provide such ‘clarity’ (for example, guidance materials, etc) to educate employers/workers instead of issuing more regulations which are intended to be used for punitive measures. Afterall, PREVENTING injuries ought to be the goal — not punishing employers after the fact, should they occur.

That wasn’t the only place that OSHA ran off the message track so to speak. Near the very end of the hearing, there was some back-and-forth bantering when OSHA insinuated that employers don’t care for the welfare of their own employees. That was cynically received by the Committee as suggesting that a bureaucrat in Washington cares more about the employees at Company X than the owner and colleagues of that very same company. Obviously, this wasn’t a path OSHA wanted to go down because of the folly in even suggesting such thing.

If that’s the argument path that OSHA will seek to continue with in the future, then I fear that their credibility will be irrevocably shot for it would suggest that they view workplace safety through a ‘political’ instead of ‘protection of workers’ lense. Obviously, that won’t be their intent… but the perception will still likely develop that way.

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