Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Safety Pays, OK Labor Commissioner Says

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Safety Pays, OK Labor Commissioner Says

Article excerpt

Hundreds of businesses in Oklahoma are not taking advantage of a program that could save them thousands or even millions of dollars in workers compensation costs, Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau said Monday.

I get a little frustrated hearing companies complain about the high cost of workers comp, Reneau told members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services. I'm not saying it's not high. I'm saying there is something they can do about it.

During the fiscal year ended June 30, Oklahoma business avoided $7.57 million in potential fines from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, plus unknown costs related to potential injuries, by participating in the Department of Labor's Safety Pays program, said Reneau.

The program is free, voluntary, confidential and non-punitive, she said. Safety Pays is designed to help businesses resolve their safety issues before OSHA has a chance to fine them. A Labor Department consultant only helps businesses identify those issues - the state agency lacks power to issue fines or otherwise penalize businesses for hazards in the workplace, Reneau said.

It's a hard sell, Reneau told committee members when asked why more companies don't take advantage of the program. The Labor Department cannot visit a business without being expressly invited to do so, said Reneau, and the department has received relatively few invitations.

Despite the agency's efforts to publicize the program, many businesses still don't know about the Safety Pays program, she said. And companies that are aware of the program are suspicious that they will somehow be penalized if hazards are found in their facilities. Additionally, some business owners worry about the time and cost involved in identifying and removing hazards in the workplace.

My 'brag sheet' is the best weapon I've got, said Reneau, referring to a list of companies that have successfully decreased their workers compensation costs, many of which participated in the Safety Pays program. …

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