WASHINGTON-A Senate Labor Committee vote could bring to the full Senate a reform bill that would reduce the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration workplace inspections and allow nongovernment certification of workplace safety at small businesses. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Neb., and Labor Committee chair-woman, sponsored the OSHA measure that is intended to encourage voluntary compliance by employers — instead of a series of government inspections — to certify safety in the workplace. It would codify a program already in effect, ``Make OSHA Work Better.'' The agency claims that program helped 24,000 small businesses correct workplace hazards in 1994 without citation or fine.
Similar in principle but less sweeping than a House measure sponsored by Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., Kassebaum's bill could be reported to the Senate floor following a committee vote to approve it. Lengthy debate forced the Senate Labor Committee on Feb. 28 to postpone its vote.
Ballenger's bill also would require less than 50 percent of OSHA funding be used for enforcement, and that the agency be subject to risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis standards.
President Clinton has vowed to veto either form of the OSHA legislation, because he said the measures seek to weaken the enforcement function of the Labor Department agency.