The Labor Department announced yesterday that most American businesses will no longer have to fill out complicated health and safety forms starting next year. The rest will have paperwork reduced by half.
Officials estimated the change - part of a general campaign to streamline the cumbersome operations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration - will save businesses $100 million annually.
As outlined by Labor Secretary Ray Marshall andOSHA Administrator Eula Bingham, the new policy means that the nation's 3.5 million businesses with 10 or fewer employees will be exempted from all health and safety bookkeeping requirements - except for the estimated 100,000 small firms selected for annual surveys.
For the 1.5 million larger firms, they said, the two complicated record-keeping forms will be consolidated into one simplified form, reducing the number of entries from 80 to 19.
While these steps relieve some of the burdens on businesses. Marshall and Bingham said, businesses will also be required to give workers access to accident and illness records at all times. Summaries are now required to be made available only once a year.
President Carter issued a statement hailing Marshall and Bingham for taking the action, and the Commission on Federal Paperwork said it was the most significant action thus far to cut down the bureaucratic paper chase.
But initial reaction outside government was mixed.
The National Federation of Independent Business, representing 515,000 small businesses called it "a giant step in the right direction." But United Steelworkers President Lloyd. McBride termed it an "inhuman approach to eliminating the serious health and accident hazards that are now so widespread."
At a press conference to announce the new policy, Marshall contended that lightening the paperwork burden will contribute to more effective enforcement of the government's health and safety rules.
"Business benefits from having to spend less time filling out complicated reports and surveys." he said. "Workers benefit from having plant records readily available in a form which they can easily understand. And OSHA benefits because our inspectors can more quickly grasp what the situation is in an individual plant."