MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

February 20, 2014

Labor official knocks ‘name and shame’ rule

Oklahoma’s labor commissioner lamented a proposed federal rule regulators say would improve workplace safety but detractors describe as a name-and-shame tactic subject to misuse.

Labor Commissioner Mark Costello made his comments during a luncheon Thursday where he addressed Greater Muskogee Manufacturers Alliance members and other business interests. Costello said workplace safety is paramount, but he expressed concerns about the “unintended consequences” that could flow from implementing the proposed rule.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published the proposed rule in November and will be accepting comments until March 10. The rule would require companies with 250 or more employees submit electronically real-time information about workplace injury and illnesses, which companies already compile and report, for public dissemination on OSHA’s website.

Costello, who testified before a rule-making committee in Washington, said there are too many unknowns that could flow from a rule intended to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. During his Muskogee visit, Costello outlined the “unintended consequences” that could occur by the online publishing of workplace safety data.

“In this instance, who will benefit?” said Costello, who confirmed his plans to seek a second term. “Well, I would argue the trial lawyers. I would argue the union organizers. I would argue that your competitors will benefit.”

Instead of naming and shaming companies into compliance, Costello advocated a voluntary safety program already available. The Safety Pays program, he said, that helps companies achieve compliance “with the highest federal standards,” reduce accident rates and worker compensation costs, and improve employee morale.

“That is an example of (a) good workplace safety” program, Costello said. “That we’re attempting to name you for safety records and shame you, that’s not the purview of the federal government.”

Costello predicted that what he called an “anti-business” rule would be a “wealth destroyer” and “another burden on you guys.” He said it would “encourage bad behavior,” “dishonesty” and “misreporting” of workplace safety data.

He urged those who attended Thursday’s luncheon and other companies that would be affected by the proposed rule to submit opposing comments. Comments may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, the federal e-rulemaking portal.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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