For 2014, OSHA Activity Increases; Infrastructure Funding Proposals In Development

By Stephen Barlas, Washington Editor | February 2014, Vol. 69 No. 2

The OSHA illness and injury reporting improvements are probably less significant than the potential lowering of the crystalline silica PEL. The estimated costs of compliance are pretty negligible, according to the agency: $183 per year for affected establishments with 250 or more employees and $9 per year for affected establishments with 20 or more employees in designated industries. "Utilities" is one of those designated industries, so underground construction firms with more than 20 employees would have to electronically submit the summary Form 300A once a year. Companies with more than 250 employees will have to electronically submit two additional forms quarterly. Those are the Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) for each injury and illness at a covered establishment and Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), a compilation of all those injuries and illness. Currently, companies with more than 11 employees complete all three forms but keep them in-house. OSHA only looks at those forms in the event of an inspection. But the agency wants regular electronic reporting in order to improve its targeting of workplaces, by having up-to-date information on injuries and illnesses.

The Coalition for Workplace Safety (CWS) has already criticized the proposed rule. Composed of trade groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., the CWS sent a comment to the OSHA in advance of a public meeting scheduled for Jan. 9, 2014: "This rulemaking has triggered strong reactions from employers who are extremely troubled by OSHA’s intent to make publically available employer-specific and incident-specific information."

Of course, those groups and many other business trade associations are supportive of any efforts by Congress to provide new funding for infrastructure construction. Proposals with the best chance of passage are those with Democratic and Republican support. One which fits that bill is the Building and Renewing Infrastructure for Development and Growth in Employment (BRIDGE) Act which would establish an Infrastructure Financing Authority (IFA). The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). The IFA would provide loans and loan guarantees in an effort to incentivize private sector investment. Eligible projects would include all modes of transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure and energy infrastructure in the transmission, distribution and storage sectors.