A new policy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has won favorable reviews from business and labor leaders, two groups that usually don't find a lot to agree about at OSHA.

OSHA announced last week that it will now cite subcontractors who violate health and safety rules at construction worksites with more than one employer. In the past, the agency usually cited the primary contractor for safety violations --whether or not subcontractors were at fault.

Construction union representatives had long argued that OSHA's old enforcement policy allowed companies at multiemployer worksites to pass the blame for violations.

"Primary contractors would say they weren't responsible. Subcontractors weren't held accountable" under the old system, said Jim E. Lapping, safety director of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Lapping said the new policy "is excellent because it does a better job of affixing blame. No one can pass the buck, now."

Hubert L. Harris, executive vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, agreed.

"The move by OSHA will now place the responsibility where it belongs--on the employers in the best position to correct the danger."

Specifically, the new OSHA policy says that "citations will normally be issued only to employers whose employes are exposed to hazards." Before citing an employer, OSHA inspectors, under the new guidelines, must determine whether the employer "has a legitimate defense to the citation."