OSHA Urges Action At Riskiest Workplaces

OSHA announced Apr. 26 that it is sending a letter to 12,500 workplaces with the U.S.'s highest lost-workday injury and illness rates urging them to take voluntary steps to reduce on-the-job hazards. The notification carries no penalties for employers who fail to take action. It comes in the wake of a federal Appeals Court ruling earlier this month striking down OSHA's Cooperative Compliance Program, under which the agency promised to relax inspections at high-hazard workplaces if the employers adopted certain health and safety measures. Industry groups charged that the program, although labeled voluntary, was coercive. The 12,500 targeted workplaces were selected from a list of 80,000 workplaces that filed required reports on injury and illness rates in 1997. For every 100 full-time workers, the 12,500 employers had eight injuries or illnesses that resulted in lost workdays. The national average is 3.3. "These employers must do better," says Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. "They must do everything possible to reduce the hazards in their workplaces and we're willing to help them." In an earlier response to the court ruling, OSHA last week announced that the 2,500 workplaces with a lost-workday rate of 16 or higher likely will receive unannounced inspections.

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