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McKeon Statement: Hearing on “Are OSHA’s Penalties Adequate to Deter Health and Safety Violations?”

One injury, one illness, or one death on the job is one too many.

We Republicans do not defend and do not support bad employers who put their workers at risk. And I offer my sincere condolences to those families who lost a loved one this way.

But instead of focusing on punishment, as we do with today’s hearing, we should also look at strategies that prevent accidents in the first place.

Current health and safety regulations are complex and confusing. Simply increasing penalties and creating even more rules will not work.

If anything, this “gotcha” approach will lead to more employer challenges and lawsuits. And in the end, it won’t be as effective in keeping workers safe.

Instead, Republicans believe that cooperation with employers to fix potential problems – along with strict enforcement – works best.

Indeed, there is evidence that when OSHA works with businesses, particularly small ones, there has been great progress.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics backs that up.

It notes that, in 2007, the number of deaths on the job fell to less than four for every 100,000 workers.

The bureau also says that, in 2007, non-fatal injuries and illnesses also were down by 4 percent – or 122 cases for every 10,000 workers.

OSHA’s figures tell the same story. They say that since 2001, workplace deaths have declined 14 percent. Meanwhile, injuries and illness rates have dropped 21 percent.

This is good news, although I repeat: One injury, one illness, or one death on the job is one too many.

That’s why I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman and my fellow committee members, that we approach this problem with a measured and balanced response.

This response should look at prevention and cooperation with employers, not just punishment.

After all, the evidence shows that prevention and cooperation are making American workplaces safer, which, in the end, is something that we all want.


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