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PRA must be put in place to protect workers before a catastrophe occurs. The bill on the other hand, would send a message that employers can allow life threatening conditions to persist until and even after they are discovered by OSHA. To allow any additional time for a catastrophe to occur, whether it be 1 hour, 24 hours, or 6 months later, would seriously jeopardize employee safety and health, and undermine OSHA's statutory mission.

In another instance, two employees died from asphyxiation in a confined space while cleaning a tank. Failure to follow written procedures required in OSHA's confined space standard was a significant factor in their death. OSHA's confined space standard requires employers to monitor and record the level of contaminants in the atmosphere before employees enter work areas which may be deficient in oxygen or contain contaminants. Records of such monitoring is considered a collection of information under the PRA. If employers do not perform such monitoring, employees face the risk of being asphyxiated or overcome by radiation or toxic fumes. If this monitoring is to protect workers effectively, employers must monitor routinely whenever there is a possible danger, not just when OSHA can prove that a particular employee in a particular confined space is in imminent danger of death or injury.

The new OSHA uses a variety of tools to protect workers, including enforcement, partnership, compliance assistance, standards development, special emphasis programs at the national, regional, and local level, and other appropriate tools. This balance of approaches helped earn OSHA good reviews in the Small Business Administration ombudsman's recent report to Congress. According to that report, OSHA has positively influenced small businesses perception of their regulatory enforcement efforts. The importance that OSHA places on working with businesses to improve safety and health led us to hire a small business liaison. Consistent with the intent of SBPRA, OSHA's liaison already works directly with small businesses, assisting them with every aspect of OSHA's program.

In conclusion, although OSHA agrees that legislation like SBPRA could be beneficial, we have serious concerns about the safety and health impact of the penalty-related provisions in section 2 of the bill. We urge the subcommittee to consider these concerns and modify the bill to guarantee that America's workers are protected.

[The prepared statement of Ms. Sheketoff follows:)

TESTIMONY OF EMILY SHEKETOFF DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH

US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR Before the SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL ECONOMIC GROWTH, NATURAL

RESOURCES AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS on H.R. 3310, the Small Business Paperwork Reduction Act Amendments of 1998

Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to testify

before you today about H.R.3310, the Small Business Paperwork Reduction Act Amendments of

1998 (SBPRA).

OSHA joins in the subcommittee's desire to reduce unnecessary paperwork. Today, the

New OSHA concentrates more on preventing illnesses and injuries, and less on simply enforcing

rules. As part of that effort, OSHA has significantly reduced its focus on mechanical paperwork

violations. For example, in the past, OSHA cited many employers who failed to display a

required safety poster in their workplaces. Today, if employers fail to display the poster, our

compliance officers give them one.

OSHA reduced its paperwork citations by 75 percent from 1992 through 1997. As a

percentage of all OSHA violations, paperwork citations have fallen from 29 to 10 percent.

OSHA is continuing to focus on real improvements in the health and safety of working people,

rather than on the number of inspections, citations or penalties. However, it is critically

important for any legislation Congress enacts on this subject to distinguish between traditional

"paperwork” requirements and the information collection requirements in standards that directly

impact worker safety and health.

Small Business Paperwork Reduction Act Amendments

SBPRA amends the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA) to require that federal

agencies: (1) publish annually a list of Federal paperwork requirements applicable to small

businesses; (2) waive any civil penalties for first time violations of paperwork requirements by

small businesses; (3) establish one point of contact for small business; and (4) establish an inter

agency task force to study and identify actions to streamline reporting requirements for small

business. While OSHA applauds the intent of this proposal, we are extremely concerned that

waiving penalties for some so-called “paperwork” violations could cost some workers their

health or their lives.

SBPRA uses the “collection of information” definition from the PRA. Consequently, it

affects standards that most people would not view as mere paperwork. I will use my testimony to

illustrate these issues to the subcommittee.

Suspension of Penalties

SBPRA prohibits agencies from imposing fines for first-time violations by a small

business for information collection requirements, where the violations have not caused actual

serious harm to the public health or safety, as long as the small business corrects the deficiency

within six months. The bill provides an exception where the violation could imminently and

substantially endanger public health or safety.

OSHA understands the desire to treat businesses that make good faith efforts at

compliance differently from those that do not. In fact, OSHA's current policies already make

such a distinction. OSHA already provides significant penalty reductions based on employer

size, good faith and history of violations, with the smallest employers eligible for the largest

reductions. Our penalty reduction system is required both by the Occupational Safety and Health

Act and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Faimess Act (SBREFA) and follows the

President's directive of April 1995. As part of that system, where paperwork violations do not

materially affect workplace health or safety, OSHA has directed its field compliance officers not

to issue citations. Consequently, the proposal in SBPRA is duplicative and unnecessary.

Moreover, eliminating the potential for any penalties for first time violations removes the

incentive for employers to voluntarily comply without intervention. This is particularly

important where requirements have a true health and safety impact. The bill attempts to guard

against risks to safety and health by allowing employers 24 hours to correct violations that have

an imminent and substantial danger to public health or safety. In such instances, the bill allows

the agency to impose the fine immediately if it informs Congress. While we acknowledge the

authors' desire to protect against safety and health risks, the bill fails to protect workers from

very real dangers. Therefore, we strongly oppose this provision of SBPRA.

The bill should not hinder in any way an agency's ability to act immediately to eliminate

an imminent or potential danger to the health or safety of workers and the public. Furthermore,

the definition of "public health or safety" within SBPRA is not clear, as the bill provides no

context to determine what “public health or safety” means. We suggest that the language of

Section 2(b)(iX(1)(B) be amended to allow the agency to impose penalties not only when it

believes the violation has “caused actual serious harm to the public health and safety" but also

when the violation appears likely to cause serious harm.

As drafted, section 2(b)(i)(1)(B) could place workers at risk of serious accident or injury.

Many important "collection of information" requirements exist that significantly and directly

protect workers from serious injury and illness. However, those requirements might not reach

the bill's imminent and substantial danger threshold. For example, OSHA's worker right-to

know program in its Hazard Communication Standard requires a certain amount of paperwork to

ensure that the program is effective. If a worker is unaware that a hazardous chemical substance

is present in the workplace, he or she may be at serious risk of illness or death. At the same time,

this risk, while serious, may not be so great as to constitute "an imminent and substantial danger

to the public health or safety." Enforcement of OSHA standards concerning written

lockout/tagout programs, analysis of hazard processes at chemical plants, hearing conservation

and toxic exposure monitoring records, all of which have a direct and significant impact on

employee safety and health, would also be rendered ineffectual in most instances by this section

of SBPRA.

There are countless examples of workers being killed or injured when employers failed to

adhere to basic information sharing requirements. In one instance, an explosion ripped through a

Phillips 66 Company complex in Houston, Texas, killing 23 people, in part because a small

subcontractor failed to obtain the necessary permits to ensure that proper safety precautions were

observed during maintenance operations. After this tragic incident, Congress directed OSHA to

require all businesses using large quantities of potentially volatile chemicals to implement

written procedures minimizing the potential for catastrophic explosions, fires or other events

which can seriously harm workers and people living nearby. Under the resulting Process Safety

Management standard, written process hazard analyses and procedures, covered as paperwork

under the PRA, must be put in place to protect workers before a catastrophe occurs. The bill, on

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