Cooperative compliance program deemed success

Litigation doesn't dampen OSHA's enthusiasm

The Cooperative Compliance Program (CCP) is a "triple win . . . because employers, employees, and OSHA all benefit," despite litigation that is challenging the program, said Assistant Secretary of Labor Charles N. Jeffress.

The CCP is on hold as the result of a challenge in the federal Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, and it probably will be delayed at least until fiscal year 1999, Jeffress said.

Innovative program popular with employers

He called the delay a drawback for employers who are experiencing high rates of injuries, and said many employers invited to participate in the program have asked OSHA if they could continue the partnership despite the stay. Jeffress made his remarks to attorneys at the midwinter meeting of the labor and employment law section of the American Bar Association in Santa Barbara, CA.

Jeffress called the CCP an innovative and creative strategy to reduce workers' injuries and illnesses at the most hazardous workplaces - those with higher than average injury and illness rates. "What OSHA wants to do is leverage its resources and maximize its impact. We want the impact of 12,000 visits while conducting fewer than 3,500 inspections," he said.

The CCP is designed to benefit employers, employees, and taxpayers by encouraging employers to develop effective workplace safety and health programs and find and fix hazards on their own in exchange for a reduced chance of inspection. With the CCP in place, Jeffress said OSHA inspections would become a way to double-check that employers are following through on their promises. The assistant secretary used the following examples of success during pilot projects held over the past several years:

· A pre-stressed concrete manufacturer with 10 sites in Wisconsin and Illinois reduced injuries by more than 50% the first year and cut its workers' compensation costs by 75% over 21 months.

· A footwear manufacturer in the same program saved $516 per employee in workers' compensation costs when the company cut its lost workday injury rate by nearly 65%.

· A manufacturer participating in Dakota First cut workers' compensation premiums by nearly $130,000 - in only one year following adoption of its safety program.

· A manufactured housing employer with 17 sites nationwide reduced lost workdays by 60% and their compensation costs by 70%, while at the same time increasing production by 40%.

Nearly 87% - about 10,000 - of the 12,000 employers invited to join the CCP had signed up by mid-February. All had experienced injury and illness rates in 1996 that were double or higher than the national average rate. At that time, the federal Court of Appeals temporarily stayed OSHA's implementation of the program following a suit by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Trucking Associations, and the Food Marketing Institute.