New occupational safety bill reignites old debate

During a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on Tuesday, the heads of OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration testified on the necessity of provisions in a new bill that would increase both agencies' enforcement powers.

Introduced earlier this month in the aftermath of the fatal April 5 Upper Big Branch Mine-South explosion in West Virginia, the Miner Safety and Health Act (H.R. 5663) would rewrite mine safety laws in an effort to target companies that regularly flout safety standards. Included in the bill, however, are revisions to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, many of which are nearly identical to changes proposed in the Protecting America's Workers Act (H.R. 2067) introduced last year.

The Coalition for Workplace Safety, a newly formed group comprising pro-business organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, asserted the bill would create substantial costs for businesses and increased litigation instead of improved safety. A coalition representative testified that increased compliance assistance would be more effective.

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