Builders Applaud OSHA Reform Package

The House passed four bills introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood on July 12 that would enhance worker safety, advance housing affordability and improve the enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) rules and regulations among small business owners.

"The legislative package approved by the House will make regulatory compliance more cost-effective and make OSHA more user friendly for small businesses, while improving housing affordability and continuing to protect the safety of workers in the home building industry," said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) president David Wilson, a custom home builder from Ketchum, Idaho.

Of particular note to home builders are H.R. 739, the Occupational Safety and Health Small Business Day in Court Act, and H.R. 742, the Occupational Safety and Health Small Employer Access to Justice Act. The first bill would allow OSHA to give businesses more than 15 days to respond to a citation; the second would make it easier for companies to recover attorneys' fees when they successfully defend themselves against a citation.

H.R. 740, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Efficiency Act, would add two more administrative law judges to the three-panel Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), which hears appeals of violations. At its current size, the commission frequently has to delay hearings because it lacks a quorum, according to a press release. The bill is intended to remedy this situation.

H.R. 741, the Occupational Safety and Health Independent Review of OSHA Citations Act, would require judges to defer to the OSHRC when OSHA cases are appealed to the courts.

While NAHB says it supports all four bills, in a letter to all House members prior to consideration of the OSHA reform package, the association identified H.R. 739 and H.R. 742 as key votes because of their impact to the housing industry.

"These two measures in particular represent common sense improvements that would remove some of the most frequently cited obstacles to our members' ability to respond to OSHA following a citation," said Wilson.

"The overall legislative package will advance job safety while helping our small business employers who are so often intimidated and confused by the OSHA inspection and citation process," he added.

Senators Johnny Isakson and Mike Enzi have committed to introducing companion reform measures in the Senate later this year.

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