NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Court Rules OSHA Jumped The Gun

April 12, 1999

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration acted improperly when it initiated a safety program in 1997 without asking for public comment, ruled the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Friday. The program had been challenged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups.

  • OSHA's Cooperative Compliance Program, as it's called, requested that about 12,250 companies -- targeted for what the agency considered the most dangerous workplaces -- take part in the voluntary program.
  • They were requested to establish health and safety programs, find and fix hazards, involve workers in the process and provide OSHA with annual safety and health data -- in return for which the companies would face a reduced risk of an OSHA inspection.
  • Each of the companies invited to join the program reportedly had at least twice the national average of injury and work-related illnesses -- which is 3.6 incidents per 100 workers.
  • A number of business groups had argued the program was coercive and amounted to a new regulation because it required more than adherence to existing law.

The appeals court agreed. "The OSHA may not... tell employers in one breath that participation in the CCP requires more than mere compliance with the (Occupational Safety and Health Act)... and tell us in the next that the sole purpose of the CCP is to make unnecessary the inspections it performs in order to uncover violations of the act," the court wrote.

OSHA officials haven't said whether they would appeal the ruling.

Source: Glenn Burkins, "Court Rules OSHA Improperly Started Program for Dangerous Workplaces," Wall Street Journal, April 12, 1999.


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