CINCINNATI, OH – On January 30, 2023, business coalitions Main Street Alliance (MSA) and the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN), represented by Democracy Forward, submitted a friend of the court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The brief urges the court to uphold a district court decision rejecting an effort by a Waterville, OH-based company to gut the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) authority to set and enforce worker safety standards by declaring the bipartisan Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) unconstitutional. The case is Allstates Refractory Contractors, LLC v. Martin J. Walsh, et al.
As the brief from MSA and ASBN – both of which count tens of thousands of businesses among their members – explains, OSHA’s permanent safety standards are not only constitutional and necessary, they are good for the bottom lines of small businesses and their employees. Since the OSH Act’s passage in 1970, the incidence of workplace fatalities and injuries has dropped dramatically, and those standards remain important today.
The brief cites testimony from small businesses describing how OSHA’s targeted enforcement of evidence-based safety standards helps level the playing field between small businesses and larger competitors by preventing businesses from being forced to incur the costs of developing and enforcing their own safety standards. As the brief notes, “MSA member and Minnesota-based cleaning service, 1st Class Cleaning Services, does not have the resources to develop its own safety protocols. Nor does ASBN member Keap Candles, which relies on OSHA’s expertise in workplace safety and is ill-equipped to wear the additional hat of workplace safety expert.”
“Main Street Alliance is a network of small businesses across the country that uplift the voice and perspective of small business across a myriad of issues, including workplace safety. The role of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is vital to establishing good quality workplace standards that protect small businesses and their employees,” said Chanda Causer, Executive Director of Main Street Alliance. “Many of our members look to OSHA to set workplace standards and regulations that enforce a safe work environment which contributes to the massive impact small businesses have on the local, state and national economies.”
“ASBN and the businesses throughout our network believe that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) plays an important role in setting and enforcing workplace safety regulations which is crucial for all businesses and their workers. With the OSHA baseline of standards we can ensure a healthy workforce, which enables a strong business, which builds a robust economy that works for all,” said David Levine, President and Cofounder, American Sustainable Business Network.
“As a small manufacturer, we value the clear safety standards set and enforced by OSHA,” said Harry Doull, Chief Candle Officer at ASBN member Keap Candles. “Having an agency that is an expert at workplace safety in charge of setting standards means we as a small business don’t have to wear an additional expert hat, trying to figure out on our own how to define the standards that will make our workplace safe. The existence of these standards applicable to everyone also means we don’t have to worry about being out-competed purely on the basis of cutting corners on safety. When we all have a transparent and shared standard to adhere to, it means we spend time competing on quality, service, and innovation—rather than on who can cut costs on safety the most. Ultimately, these standards create better outcomes not just for affected employees but also for customers—and ultimately for our bottom line.”
“As the coalition’s brief makes clear, OSHA’s permanent safety standards, and its enforcement of those standards, are constitutional and necessary to carry out the specific task it was assigned by Congress: keeping workers safe,” said Ben Seel, Senior Counsel for Democracy Forward. “We urge the court to reject Allstates Refractory’s effort to misapply the nondelegation doctrine to invalidate every single one of OSHA’s permanent safety standards. We simply cannot turn the clock back a half-century on workplace safety in the United States – doing so would be catastrophic for workers, bad for consumers, and a death knell for many small businesses, which simply cannot afford to replace OSHA’s expert guidance and enforcement.”