April 9, 2012 Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH 0Comment

The US Chamber of Commerce had a quaint little game on its website last month, complete with a YouTube video with fake sportscasters. The PR campaign called “Regulatory Madness” keyed off the annual NCAA’s basketball tournament we know as March Madness. The cutesy idea was for business people to use the Chamber’s pick of the 16 most “maddening” Obama Administration regulations, and fill in brackets to ultimately chose the most “maddening” one of all. They called it their “not-so-pretty Sweet Sixteen.”

Their “top picks” included financial, health care and environmental regulations, such as the Volcker rule and EPA’s boiler rule. The Chamber’s “Labor Region” included three NLRB rules, and an OSHA initiative that has not yet even been proposed by the Agency. What OSHA has been discussing with stakeholders is the simple notion that employers should have a program to find and fix workplace hazards so employees don’t get hurt. It’s called a workplace injury and illness prevention program, sometimes referred to as I2P2.

The OSHA rule didn’t “win” as the most maddening rule in the Chamber’s little game, but it’s curious that they even included it on their list of 16. Members of the Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, including Pfizer, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical and 3M, have worksite health and safety programs like the ones OSHA is discussing.

Dow says “our health and safety programs are a source of company pride,” and attribute their reduction in occupational injuries and illnesses to their programs. These firms and hundreds of others have adopted workplace health and safety management systems and been recognized by OSHA in its Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). Lawmakers on Capitol Hill (mostly Republicans) like OSHA’s VPP so much—-with its requirements for systematic assessment of hazards—that they’ve introduced bills to codify the program in the OSHA statute. And just last week, National Mining Association (NMA) announced a major campaign urging mine operators to adopt comprehensive worker safety and health management system. The NMA’s CORESafety program is based on the American National Standard Institute’s (ANSI) Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (Z-10) framework, the international communities OHSAS 18001 program standard, and OSHA’s VPP. All of these programs, including the NMA’s new CORESafety, are designed to go above and beyond mere compliance with OSHA and MSHA regulations.

The Chamber of Commerce mocks these worker safety systems by scoffing at the mere idea of identifying and correcting hazards.

“…the I2P2 rule would mandate that all employers ‘find and fix’ workplace hazards, even if they are not currently regulated.”

Responsible employers know that THEY are responsible for providing a safe work environment, and they don’t wait for the government to tell them what is a hazard. Besides, loads of workplace risks aren’t addressed by a specific regulation, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be eliminated or controlled so that employees don’t get hurt or killed.

Peabody Energy (NYSE: BTU) and CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX)—-representatives on the Chamber’s Board of Directors—-understand that, and are now encouraging other mining companies to adopt the NMA’s CORESafety program. They are two of the 28 firms signing onto the program.

The Chamber’s “Regulatory Madness” was a gimmicky PR campaign for the anti-regulatory crowd. It’s pathetic that they stooped to mocking programs designed to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. It’s revealing how out-of-touch they are with major employers and mainstream businesses.

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