Monday, May 31, 2004

Interesting(?) Legislation

Congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) introduced legislation last week that would require OSHA to issue citations within 30 days of an inspection, rather than withing 6 months as currently required by law. It would also double the time that employers have to contest a citation, from 15 days to 30 days.

I'm not exactly sure what brought this about, something about some construction companies having to shut down job sites rather than pay penalties. Last year, Tiahrt held a press conference with a number of construction executives.
Builders told Tiahrt that with better construction equipment and technology, the 30-year-old regulations have become outdated and should be revamped. And the rules should be more reasonable, they said.

And many subcontractors simply are not aware of the reams of regulations, they said.

"You wouldn't know how they are going to interpret it anyway," [longtime Wichita home builder Steve]Robl said.

The builders want to build an alliance with OSHA, he said.

"The real issue of safety is, it should be an education process that we continue to do over a long period of time -- not just show up and start throwing out (thousands of dollars in) fines."
So if this new equipment is so great, why, according to OSHA, were 21.8 percent of all construction fatalities in Kansas from Oct. 1, 1998, to Nov. 11, 2002, in residential construction?

And I always find it interesting when employers claim they can't figure out how to interpret OSHA regulations and they just want there to be an education process, and "alliance" instead of all of these adversarial penalties. Try doing a good search for "construction safety." I come up with more than 5 million hits. If that's not enough information and education and interpretation, these guys need more than a stiff fine.

Anyway, I'm all for Tiahrt's legislation. If OSHA has to hand down citations in 1/6th the time it takes now, they can do six times as many inspections in a year. Or maybe they need six times more staff, which I'm sure Congressman Tiahrt would be happy to request. Congressman Tiahrt, you have the thanks of a grateful nation.