On May 18, 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives passed four bills that would significantly reform the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. McDermott, Will & Emery’s OSHA Group, and particularly Art Sapper, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office, played a major role in the efforts by the business community to secure passage of the bills.
The Four OSHA Reform Bills
The four bills were passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 18, 2004, less than two weeks after they were approved by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bills are as follows:
HR 2730, Independence of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission: This bill would overrule a U.S. Supreme Court decision, and provide that Commission interpretations, rather than OSHA interpretations, would be given deference by the courts.
HR 2729, Expanding the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to Five Members: Inasmuch as the Commission, an adjudicative body, consists of only three members, vacancies have frequently resulted in a near-total inability to decide cases. Raising the number of members to five would better assure the agency would have a quorum and thus be able to decide cases.
HR 2731, Attorney Fees for Small Employers: This bill would substantially liberalize the criteria permitting small employers to recover attorney's fees and costs incurred in successfully defending against OSHA citations.
HR 2728, Reasonable Exceptions to Filing Requirements: This bill would overrule a decision by a court of appeals and make clear that employers who have sound excuses for failing to timely contest an OSHA citation would be able to seek relief under criteria like that in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60.
Instrumental Role of McDermott, Will & Emery’s OSHA Practice Group
Art Sapper of McDermott, Will & Emery’s OSHA Practice Group was instrumental in helping the House subcommittee craft, research and defend the bills. In June, 2003, Mr. Sapper testified before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections as an expert witness for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and vigorously explained why the bills were needed. The reports of the full House Committee relied heavily on Mr. Sapper’s testimony.
The bills will now go to the Senate. Supporters of the bills should contact their Senators and urge their support.