The Social Security Administration reports that for 1980 - the latest yearly data available - the cost to employers of the nation's workers compensation programs hit $22 billion. Better regulation - and more cooperative, aggressive efforts by management, labor, and government in eliminating hazards - can reduce this staggering annual bill.
So cost-effective protections can have a double pay-off: They eliminate the expense of complying with unneccesary requirements; and they make sure that the procedures we do require will provide the kind of practical, on-site protection that can bring down compensation costs.
While making key improvements to agency operations, we have also reduced what might be called OSHA's irritation index. We have eliminated useless or ridiculous regulations - the kind for which OSHA used to be famous, or should I say infamous. For example, we did away with an agency ban on devices which allow gasoline to flow automatically at self-service gasoline pumps. The ban protects no one and irritates everyone. So we got rid of it.
Regulatory reform also means cutting red tape, reducing paperwork. Toward that goal, we have proposed to eliminate OSHA record-keeping requirements for nearly 500,000 employers in certain service industries that have excellent lost-workday case rates.
In the past, state programs were often neglected or even mistrusted by administrators. That's because their confidence in government never extended beyond the city limits of Washington, D. C. But this administration recognizes that governing is often best left to the level closest to the people. This idea is incorporated in the President's ''New Federalism.'' At OSHA, we have translated this philosophy into better support for state-run OSHA programs.
Now we come to a virtually new entry on OSHA's rating card: voluntary and experimental programs.
Last summer we announced a new initiative to promote the kind of cooperation that is a crucial supplement to OSHA's enforcement effort. This national program enables companies with exemplary safety and health programs to assume increased responsibility at the worksite level.
Participating workplaces will be exempt from routine OSHA inspection. Participants must still comply with applicable OSHA standards, and workers and employers retain all legal rights and responsibilities. The agency will continue to investigate any worker complaints or accidents.
At last OSHA is offering incentives for excellence - some ''carrots'' to complement its enforcement ''stick.'' Employers who do an excellent job protecting workers can operate their own safety and health program in the way that is most effective and efficient for their operation without the federal government prescribing every last detail.
Another carrot we are offering is an experimental program in seven southern states to promote the use of the OSHA-funded free on-site consultation service.
Employers who have a comprehensive consultation, correct all serious hazards, and have or develop an effective safety and health program will be exempt for one year from OSHA inspection. This experiment enables conscientious employers to ask for advice without fear of citation or penalty, and our compliance officers are free to visit the not-so-conscientious.
It's the employer's job to eliminate the hazard, but where we can help by offering the latest technical information, we shouldm and we willm.