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Jackson Citizen Patriot: Do Away with Excessive Workplace Regulations While Still Protecting Employee Safety

January 25, 2013
Opinion Editorial

Manufacturers are the heart and soul of Jackson. Around 350 companies call the community home, providing many jobs for men and women of all different skill sets. And while the sector has had its fair share of ups and downs, it remains a vital part of Michigan's economy. I will continue to fight for the sector and create an environment in which it continues to thrive, and in turn create more jobs.

As chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, my responsibility is to promote employee safety and a workers' ability to have a good-paying job. When the federal government imposes onerous regulations, job creation slows. Part of protecting employees' jobs is making sure the business they work for is still able to prosper, instead of being weighed down by costly, burdensome regulations. As it stands, employers pay around $10,000 extra per employee each year to cover federal regulations. Businesses have to factor in the cost. If the price is too high, they will choose not to hire.

One example of a proposal that will cost jobs is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recent effort to transform the way America's businesses control noise exposure. A worker's first line of defense has long been personal protection equipment, whether it included earplugs or noise-reducing muffs.

However, last year OSHA proposed flipping decades of enforcement policies by requiring employers to replace or retrofit equipment. This means manufacturers would likely have to buy new machinery, or change entire process lines and significant portions of their shop floor. The costs tied to such changes are astronomical. For businesses already operating on slim margins, many say this would force them to shift production overseas or even shut down.

I also often get the chance to hear stories from business owners about how these rules affect them personally. Last year I heard from Stuart Sessions, president of the consulting firm Environomics, who testified on behalf of the Coalition for Workplace Safety. According to the group's case study, 70 percent of respondents said they would have to reduce their number of employees if OSHA's proposal went into effect. He also estimated these rules would cost the nation's businesses between $1.2 billion and $27 billion per year.

Preventing these kinds of harmful regulatory proposals just mentioned will give companies more certainty about what rules they can expect, without being blindsided or worried they might not be able to cover the cost. Despite the need for businesses to remain competitive, they should also be held accountable for making their sure workers are kept safe. That is the delicate balance I, along with my colleagues on the Workforce Protection Subcommittee, try to strike. We all want workers to go home whole, sound and safe, and return to the work the next day. We'll always strive for common ground but also fight when we know we're doing the right thing for American employers and their workers.

At the very least, let's do no more harm. We need to do away with burdensome, unnecessary regulations while implementing responsible ones that protect workers, and hold manufacturers accountable for their employees' safety and offer the certainty they need to grow and keep manufacturing jobs in Jackson.

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