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MARCH 1998

OSHA's "Cooperative" Compliance Program faces uncertain future

By Robert LaBombard

A federal appeals court on Feb. 17 enjoined OSHA from implementing its controversial "Cooperative Compliance Program" (CCP) while the court reviews the program's legality.

OSHA had begun a national effort to identify employers to be invited to take part in a "cooperative program." The first step was to identify employers with the highest Lost Work Day Injury and Illness rates (LWDII). Using data from a national survey, OSHA also listed:

OSHA had planned to visit the 50 worst companies for complete floor-to-ceiling inspections without advance warning of the time of the visit.

Others on these lists were to be sent a letter and offered a "partnership" with OSHA. OSHA would work with employers that commit to developing a safe and healthy workplace. Employers that did not agree to cooperate faced increased risk of inspections. Employers were given until Feb. 17, 1998 to tell OSHA if they planned to participate.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spearheaded the industry effort to block OSHA's program, which it called "a shakedown by a government agency."

The program harms employers by forcing them to comply with standards that were not issued through proper regulatory channels, such as requirements for safety and health programs and ergonomics, industry argued. Moreover, CCP is not "voluntary" because of the consequences of not agreeing to "cooperate."

CCP is on hold, and OSHA has reverted to its former inspection schedule. If you have received a letter from OSHA regarding your involvement in this program, you can put it on hold until further court action is taken.

If you received a letter inviting participation in CCP, you may be able to put your need to comply on hold - but some additional safety and health programs may be needed.

Robert LaBombard is assistant director of safety for Lovell Safety Management Co. in New York, a worker compensation safety group manager and provider of complete risk management services. He will be conducting a Business Council-sponsored OSHA Authorized Voluntary Compliance Course April 1-2 in Corning and April 7-8 in Vernon.

March 19, 1998