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Concern grows about lack of data, rational for OSHA aftermarket rule

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 - 00:00
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With all the attention now being paid in Washington to the connection between over-regulation of business and its drag on job creation, one has to shake one's head at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) apparent intent to impose new recordkeeping requirements on sectors such as the aftermarket. It is bad enough that a low-injury industry such as aftermarket retailers — there is no excavation, electrified machinery or any of the other workplace hallmarks of a dangerous job site — would have to start filling out the OSHA Log and Incident Report forms after being exempt from doing so for 30 years. What makes that prospect even worse is that OSHA, in its proposed rule last June, provided very little justification for forcing aftermarketers to start filling out OSHA Forms 300 and 300A. (Companies with fewer than 11 employees would be exempt).

"There was a lot of data missing from the proposed rule," notes Aaron Lowe, vice president of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), which wrote a letter to OSHA Administrator David Michaels in September asking him to extend the comment period. As a consequence, OSHA extended its public comment deadline by a month until the end of October. In its letter to Michaels, AAIA complained that the aftermarket industry would lose its reporting exemption despite the fact it boasts a "downward trend in Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rates and therefore continues to be a low-hazard industry." The DART rate represents the total non-fatal injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity and/or job transfer per 100 full-time employees for a given period of time (usually 1 year). DART rates at or below 75 percent of the national average are classified as "low hazard" and exempt from filling out OSHA Forms 300 and 300A. The June proposed rule lists the aftermarket as one of the sectors that would lose its exemption, which the aftermarket has enjoyed since 1982.

 

The proposed rule provided no information on injury and illness rates in the aftermarket retail industry, much less the relationship of that DART rate to a national average, also missing from the proposed rule. "It was almost a 'trust me' kind of approach," notes Lowe.

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Criticism of OSHA's June proposal, which affects other sectors as well, has also come from what one could consider more objective observers, in one case the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), which is an arm of the federal government. Paul Schulte, director, Division of Education and Information at NIOSH, says OSHA might want to make its DART-only yardstick more sensitive. Schulte says OSHA should consider giving additional weight to injuries or illnesses where an employee is kept away from work for three days or more. Another way to sharpen the OSHA yardstick would be to use a measure of which industries account for a disproportionate share of work-loss days instead of work-loss cases.

AAIA's Lowe adds another thought. "If the injury/illness trend is downward in a particular sector that already has a low-hazard classification, why take away its exemption?" he asks, implying that criterion would allow the aftermarket to keep its 30-year exemption.

OSHA estimates that the cost to the 246 stores in the aftermarket sector who would have to comply with Form 300 and 300A rules would be $60 per store. That may or may not be an accurate number. Other trade groups are contesting the way OSHA came up with the cost estimates for various sectors. Regardless, OSHA should first clearly substantiate the need for a new regulation via public disclosure of its calculations.

With all the attention now being paid in Washington to the connection between over-regulation of business and its drag on job creation, one has to shake one's head at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) apparent intent to impose new recordkeeping requirements on sectors such as the aftermarket. It is bad enough that a low-injury industry such as aftermarket retailers — there is no excavation, electrified machinery or any of the other workplace hallmarks of a dangerous job site — would have to start filling out the OSHA Log and Incident Report forms after being exempt from doing so for 30 years. What makes that prospect even worse is that OSHA, in its proposed rule last June, provided very little justification for forcing aftermarketers to start filling out OSHA Forms 300 and 300A. (Companies with fewer than 11 employees would be exempt).

"There was a lot of data missing from the proposed rule," notes Aaron Lowe, vice president of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), which wrote a letter to OSHA Administrator David Michaels in September asking him to extend the comment period. As a consequence, OSHA extended its public comment deadline by a month until the end of October. In its letter to Michaels, AAIA complained that the aftermarket industry would lose its reporting exemption despite the fact it boasts a "downward trend in Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rates and therefore continues to be a low-hazard industry." The DART rate represents the total non-fatal injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity and/or job transfer per 100 full-time employees for a given period of time (usually 1 year). DART rates at or below 75 percent of the national average are classified as "low hazard" and exempt from filling out OSHA Forms 300 and 300A. The June proposed rule lists the aftermarket as one of the sectors that would lose its exemption, which the aftermarket has enjoyed since 1982.

 

The proposed rule provided no information on injury and illness rates in the aftermarket retail industry, much less the relationship of that DART rate to a national average, also missing from the proposed rule. "It was almost a 'trust me' kind of approach," notes Lowe.

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