It looks like the anti-regulatory revolution might result in some good to industry, including the rubber sector, after all.
The Republican majority in Congress has tried to slash and burn its way through regulatory affairs for the past year, with limited success. Business and the public have, in general, supported this action. However, rhetoric and one-upmanship have marred much of the debate, and the reaction to the attack on federal environmental laws showed the nation approves of and supports some regulations.
Perhaps in response to the ``down with regulations'' atmosphere, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration now is planning to adopt changes in policies concerning enforcement of job safety laws. Redirection, rather than gutting current procedures and activities, is what OSHA has in mind.
The plans are very practical in nature.
``OSHA will take steps to treat employers with aggressive health and safety programs differently from employers who lack such efforts,'' a draft of OSHA's plans said. ``In effect, employers will be offered a choice of how they will be regulated by OSHA.''
The six-part program would cut fines for cited employers if they have good health and safety programs, are small employers or agree to fix violations before the end of an inspection. Citations issued for paperwork errors that really have no bearing on worker safety and health would be eliminated. And compliance officers would receive guidance on evaluating safety and health programs.
Additionally, the new program calls for OSHA to focus its enforcement efforts on the worst hazards in the most dangerous sectors of general industry. Among the hazards being considered for scrutiny are lockout/tagout procedures, machine guarding, electrocutions and falls-hazards that have resulted in deaths and injuries at U.S. tire plants in the past few years.
Whatever the motivation behind OSHA's actions, the ideas appear sound. They would go a long way toward helping create a partnership between the federal department and employers-something OSHA said it wants to develop, and something the watchdog agency always has lacked.
The rubber industry should help devise and support the plan when it gets its full hearing in coming months.