Last year, separate bills were introduced in both the United States House and Senate that will profoundly affect industry's relationship with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

H.R. 2067 and S. 1580, the Protecting America's Workers Act (or PAWA) will have several significant consequences if passed.

The legislation expands workplace safety provisions enacted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970to cover public sector employees in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Also, it will strengthen the whistleblower provisions of the current act.

Most importantly, PAWA will address civil and criminal penalties for violation. Proponents say that penalties are critical to enforcement, and are an effective deterrent. PAWA will increase civil and criminal penalty amounts, and will significantly increase penalties for worker deaths.

The proposed legislation will also provide for criminal penalties and for making top management liable for criminal misconduct in the workplace.

PAWA is now in the House Committee on Education and Labor, before the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions and in the Senate it is before the Senate Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

PAWA forecast
Most bills are assigned to one or more congressional committees for consideration, deliberation, investigation and revision. The committees may then "report" favorably or unfavorably to the House or Senate on the bill as a whole.

Even if the bill is assigned to a committee, there is no guarantee that the committee will consider it. The majority of bills never make it out of committee. If a bill isn't reported out of committee, it cannot be considered by the House or Senate.

The Protecting America's Workers Act is in the first steps of the legislative process. We certainly expect that PAWA will be reported out of committee in both the House and the Senate, and will eventually come to a vote.

We don't know what kinds of changes or amendments will be made to the bills, or what might happen in the reconciliation process.

You can depend on KellerOnline to keep you informed of any and all developments on this and any other issues and OSHA regulations that could affect you. Share your thoughts with your colleagues in the Member Discussion Area, stay tuned to the Weekly Update, and watch the News & Alertson the homepage of the service.

For more information on safety-related issues, visit the J.J. Keller & Associates Web site at www.jjkeller.com.