The Clinton standard

During the Clinton administration, OSHA developed a standard that would have required employers to establish a workplace safety and health program to ensure compliance with agency standards and the General Duty Clause.

The proposed rule would have applied to all employers covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, except those in agriculture and construction.

While it is unknown what direction OSHA may take if the agency chooses to pursue a similar standard today, some have suggested looking back to the work done on the original standard as a starting point. “It’s not as though we’re starting from scratch on this,” said Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO’s director of safety and health. “A lot of work was done on it.”

Although the standard never got very far and eventually was removed from OSHA’s agenda, the agency did release a draft. According to the draft, each employer would have to meet a series of “core elements” for a safety program to be in compliance, including:

  • Management leadership and employee participation, which would entail the employer showcasing management leadership of the safety and health program, and providing employees with opportunities to participate in the establishment, implementation and evaluation of the program.
  • Hazard identification and assessment, in which an employer would conduct workplace inspections, and keep a record of hazards identified and actions taken to control them.
  • Hazard prevention and control, in which an employee must comply with requirements of OSHA standards and the General Duty Clause.
  • Information and training, by which an employer must ensure employees receive information on the safety and health program and proper training regarding hazards they may face.
  • Evaluation of program effectiveness would require periodic inspections of the program’s effectiveness and timely revisions of the program when areas are deficient.

The Clinton-era draft contained a grandfather clause that allowed employers with pre-existing safety and health programs to continue them if the programs met the basic obligations of the core elements and could demonstrate the effectiveness of any element in their program that differs from other requirements under the core elements.

The proposed draft also would have covered multiemployer worksites. The host employer would have been required to provide information on hazards and safety and health rules, and the contract employer would have had to advise the host of hazards associated with the contractor’s work and how the contractor was addressing them.

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