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Playing It Safe Congress' proposed SAFE Act may shelter small businesses from OSHA.

By Stephen Barlas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The people at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) must feel much like the Union troops in Gettysburg did whilewatching successive waves of Confederate troops storm up CemeteryRidge. During the past few Congresses, Republicans have ledrelentless attacks on the workplace safety agency.

Now Rep. Jim Talent (R-MO), chairman of the House Committee onSmall Business, is leading what may be the political equivalent ofPickett's charge with his introduction of the SafetyAdvancement for Employees (SAFE) Act. Though SAFE has gained somecongressional support in recent months, the general feeling is thatPresident Clinton will not likely back the act.

The key provision of the bill (H.R. 2579) says businesses thathave their premises audited by an OSHA-certified private companywould be exempt for two years from penalties resulting from aformal OSHA inspection. The business owner would be required toabate any workplace hazards found during the audit, and if he orshe did not make a good-faith effort to remain in compliance withOSHA laws during the subsequent two-year period, the exemption frompenalties would be lost. Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) has introduced theSenate version of the bill (S.1237), which, at press time, hadpassed the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.

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