Update: The Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 (H.R. 5663)
July 21, 2010
I just wanted to give you a quick update on a bill moving through Committee that would have a negative impact on businesses throughout Eastern Washington, and my efforts to stop it.
Today, the House Education and Labor Committee – on which I serve – held a mark-up on H.R. 5663, the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010. This bill is the Committee’s response to the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that occurred in West Virginia three months ago. However, while no one doubts that miner safety is critical and bad actors must be weeded out and held accountable, as of today no government entity has drawn conclusions or issued final determinations on the cause of the disaster or what reforms (if any) need to be implemented.
But the bill before the Committee today overreaches by not only making significant changes to our mining laws, but to all workplaces – imposing vague new standards and harsh penalties and lowering the liability standard while doing little to improve workplace safety or prevent accidents and injuries. Worst of all, the bill proposes sweeping changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which is completely unrelated to mining law. The proposed changes to OSHA will raise costs on every employer in the nation. Instead of maintaining policies that balance compliance assistance with enforcement – a strategy that has helped reduce workplace injuries and illnesses since 1992 – this bill would move toward stricter enforcement and harsher penalties while eliminating the ability of states to establish their own models – plans that include increased inspections, enhanced flexibility, and greater access to innovative strategies for making job sites safer. This is the wrong approach – especially at a time when jobs are scarce and the economy is fragile.
As part of today’s mark-up, I introduced an amendment that would strike OSHA reform from the bill. This would keep H.R. 5663 focused on what it purports to address: Mine safety. The Committee has yet to vote on my amendment – or the bill itself – but we expect votes shortly. I pledge to keep you informed and up-to-date to this issue and all issues that affect you.