OSHA's "Cooperative" Compliance Program

Recently, I came across an article in Industry Week about OSHA's Cooperative Compliance Program.

Recently, I came across an article in Industry Week about OSHA's Cooperative Compliance Program. What I read reminded me somewhat of the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) and some of its programs that many plating facilities have volunteered for.

The plan asked 12,000 employers to participate in inspections and reduce workplace hazards in return for a reduced chance of inspection, lighter penalties and technical assistance in correcting hazardous conditions. Ten thousand companies agreed to participate; however, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers filed suit saying the program circumvented normal regulatory policy and coerced companies to participate. The Courts ordered the program halted pending review.

I looked up the Cooperative Compliance Program on OSHA's Internet site, www.osha.gov. I found an explanatory document. The program is modeled after OSHA's Maine 200 Program, which won the Innovation in American Government Award from the Ford Foundation and the Hammer Award from Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review. The program is part of the agency's strategy to reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace. OSHA's commitment to reducing injuries and illnesses is admirable.

However, unlike EPA, OSHA simply decided to implement this program, offering employers a choice of partnership or traditional enforcement. Those that participate are placed on secondary or tertiary inspection lists and the rest remain on the OSHA primary inspection list. Volunteering can reduce a company's chances of inspection by 70 to 90 pct.

Rather than "threaten" manufacturers and industries, OSHA could have learned from EPA's CSI for the Metal Finishing Sector. Although not perfect, at least the rules and regulations of the various programs implemented under CSI are a cooperative effort. Twenty-four members represent finishing companies, trade associations, suppliers, environmental and community groups, organized labor and state and local governments. This allows EPA to work with industry to develop regulations that are feasible and cost effective. (I'm sure not all agree on that, however). At least EPA has developed an image as a cooperative agency and maybe OSHA needs to do the same.