Congress is prepared to face the ongoing debate between OSHA and small businesses. Time and time again, small businesses have stood behind their claim that safety inspectors are only out to impose costly fines associated with minor violations. At the same time, OSHA preaches that they are guardians of the public good whose only goal is to eliminate hazardous work conditions.

Regardless, according to the New York Times, Congress hopes to give small businesses more leeway when dealing with the regulations that inspectors enforce. This includes exempting companies from penalties if they hire outside safety consultants, and requiring the federal government to pay legal fees for owners who successfully appeal safety citations.

In response to questions regarding the necessity of some regulations, OSHA set up the Office of Small Business Assistance to provide a handbook, training, free inspection consultations and a Web site. In addition, reports indicate that OSHA has taken additional steps to ease the burden of small businesses. Penalties for workplace citations can be significantly reduced for companies with good safety history and good faith cooperation, and those with fewer than 25 employees will receive a 60 percent discount.

Regardless, some members of Congress are pressing legislation that would give small businesses more power in dealing with OSHA.

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