20 November 2001 20:44 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (CNI)--The US Department of Labor has signed an agreement settling a lawsuit by the nations' largest group of manufacturers challenging the department's new occupational safety and health recordkeeping regulation, officials said Tuesday.
"This settlement agreement is a big step toward a more reasonable regulation," said Quentin Riegel, deputy general counsel at the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
"It also shows the value and effectiveness of a more cooperative relationship between business and government. Instead of spending precious time and resources litigating the matter, both sides can focus on creating and maintaining safe and healthful workplaces," Riegel added.
The agreement requires the department's Occupational Safety and health Administration (Osha) to inform its enforcement officers nationwide of the meaning of several critical provisions of the new rule, which is scheduled to take effect on 1 January.
It also specifies that Osha will not issue citations for violations of the rule during the first 120 days after 1 January, provided the employer is attempting in good faith to meet its obligations and agrees to make corrections necessary to comply.
Riegel said NAM filed the lawsuit in part to ensure that only injuries and illnesses actually caused by work are recorded on a company's log.
The agreement states that a case is presumed work-related "if, and only if, an event or exposure in the work environment is a discernible cause of the injury or illness or of significant aggravation to a pre-existing condition."
In an enforcement action, if the employer determined that a case was not work-related, Osha would have the burden of proof to show that it was.
"It is vitally important that only injuries caused by work show up on the logs," said Riegel. "Otherwise, the numbers will be suspect and the safety plans by employers and enforcement choices by Osha will be misguided."
NAM represents 14 000 manufacturers, including the major US producers of chemicals, plastics and pharmaceuticals.
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