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Regulatory ‘onslaught’ or ‘drought’? Stakeholders, lawmakers debate

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Dec. 9 Workforce Protections Subcommittee

Photo: House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats

Washington – Lawmakers once again are debating whether new safety regulations might be too burdensome for employers.

During a House Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing on Dec. 9, subcommittee Chair Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) accused the Obama administration of unleashing a “regulatory onslaught” on working families and small-business owners. Wallberg called the recent regulatory agenda “extreme.”

Several witnesses at the hearing claimed that increased regulation is linked to a negative effect on employment, including the shuttering of worksites and slowed hiring. According to Washington-based attorney Brad Hammock, manager of the Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group for law firm Jackson Lewis, recent OSHA initiatives will create a burden for employers. Hammock specifically called out proposed rules on silica and injury reporting, as well as the agency’s use of the General Duty Clause to cite employers for musculoskeletal disorders.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats and one witness stressed the need for updated regulations and strong enforcement. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, characterized OSHA’s prolonged standards-setting process as creating a “regulatory drought.” Improved working conditions, she said, would actually reduce income inequality and create a more robust economy.

Ranking member Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) urged her fellow members to keep in mind that the purpose of the subcommittee and the Department of Labor is to ensure the welfare of working people. “We are the Workforce Protections Subcommittee,” she said. “We must protect the workforce.”