Jonathan Snare an attorney and partner with the DC office of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP law firm testified last week on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, regarding the Protecting America’s Workers Act legislation (HR 2067; S 1580) to the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections of the Committee on Education and Labor.
Snare stated that he believes that the “goals behind the Protecting America’s Workers Act are laudable—this legislation is intended to enhance OSHA in its mission to assure a safe and healthy workplace environment and to reduce the number of workplace injuries/illnesses and fatalities.” However he stated the legislation may have unintended consequences and may not achieve the intent behind this bill.
His main point was that penalties alone will not solve the problem. Snare testified that because “penalties are imposed after the fact of an injury or fatality” increasing penalties may not decrease the number of injuries. He reminded the subcommittee that the critical mission of OSHA is “to assist employers to make sure these injuries and fatalities never occur in the first place.”
Snare pointed out that OSHA demonstrated during the past administration that its “balanced approach” of using enforcement, compliance assistance and cooperative programs, and outreach and training to respond to the challenge of workplace safety and health was successful in its continuing mission of improving workplace safety and health. Overall incident rates have declined steadily during from 2005 to 2009. However critics charge that this may be in part to companies not accurately reporting injuries to OSHA. Although this contention isn’t fully supported, in my opinion, based on the insurance data available. However if injury rates were holding steady or increasing, then so should worker compensation claims frequency…right? They aren’t!
According to a 2009 National Council on Compensation Insurance, (NCCI) report, “over the last five years, there were significant declines in total lost-time claims frequency for all industries, geographic regions, and employer sizes.” In 2008 claim frequency dropped 4%.
Snare said that he wanted to “make clear that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does not condone those employers who have intentionally flouted their obligations to protect their employees and fail to comply with their workplace safety and health obligations.”