OSHA's Compliance Program Ruled Illegal

Industry won a significant victory Apr. 9 when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down OSHA's controversial Cooperative Compliance Program (CCP), ruling that the agency hadn't followed proper rulemaking procedures in developing the two-year-old regulation. Under the program, OSHA promised to ease workplace inspections at some 12,000 companies if they agreed voluntarily to establish safety and health programs, identify and eliminate hazards, and provide the agency with safety and health data. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Assn. of Manufacturers (NAM), and other business groups sued, complaining that the rule was coercive and was adopted without opportunity for public comment. Hailing the decision, Stephen A. Bokat, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the legal arm of the Chamber, said that "OSHA imposed these requirements without ever giving American business the right to review and comment on them. It demonstrates OSHA's paternalistic attitude." Added Jennifer Krese, NAM's director of employment policy: "It's our hope that this ruling will demonstrate that OSHA's current 'gotcha' approach is not only ineffective, it runs afoul of the law." Labor Secretary Alexis Herman expressed disappointment over the decision, but said that OSHA will continue its "outreach efforts" to help "high-hazard employers learn how they can improve workplace safety and health before an OSHA inspector arrives at their door." Significantly, the court rule doesn't block OSHA from reinstituting CCP if it gives proper public notice.

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