July 11, 2005 – Four bills that would alter the way the federal agency tasked with overseeing workplace health and safety regulations are up for full consideration by the US House of Representatives this week. Taken together, the measures -- all four of which were jointly sponsored by a group of eleven legislators and have since gained the support of several more -- would lessen federal oversight of workplace safety practices and aid private enterprisesâ€™ efforts to challenge penalties assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), according to the text of the proposed legislation.
One bill, H.R. 739, would undo OSHAâ€™s timetable for company challenges to agency rulings. Presently, a firm has fifteen days to file a challenge. Under the proposed rule, a company would be allowed to file for an extension if it can prove the "failure results from mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect." The bill does not state how long the exemption is allowed to be, nor does it define any of the terms allowing for extensions.
The other three bills affect OSHAâ€™s performance in the legal realm. House Resolution 742 would force OSHA to pay the opposing sideâ€™s legal costs for court proceedings in which judgments find against agency actions.
Another of the bills, H.R. 740, would add two members to the agencyâ€™s Review Commission. Both would have to be lawyers and are to be appointed by the president. H.R. 741 would give the Review Commission rule-making authority and essentially allow it to perform its own review of Commission regulations, instead of reserving that power for the Department of Labor, as is currently the law.
Georgia Republican Charles W. Norwood introduced the bills for himself and ten colleagues on February 10. In April, the House Education and Workforce Committee reported all four measures out of committee along partisan lines.