Issue Date: May 4, 2009
Labor Group Pushes For OSHA Overhaul
AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, is urging Congress to strengthen and step up enforcement of the federal workplace health and safety law. Enforcement of the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 "remains weak, and OSHA penalties remain low, particularly when compared with other safety and environmental laws," Margaret Seminario, director of health and safety at AFL-CIO, told the House Education & Labor Committee last week. She endorsed the Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 2067), which would increase civil fines and criminal penalties on negligent employers for violation of workplace rules. It also would allow family members to appeal OSHA settlement decisions. "Penalties are the key enforcement mechanism under the act," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), committee chairman and a cosponsor of the bill. "They must be meaningful. They must function to deter violations. And they must not be a mere cost of doing business." Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon of California, the panel's ranking Republican member, said the focus should be how to prevent accidents. "Current health and safety regulations are complex and confusing. Simply increasing penalties and creating even more rules will not work," he said. An OSHA reform bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate soon.
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