Okla. DOL Introduces $1,000 Tax Exemption Safety Incentive

Oklahoma Commissioner of Labor Brenda Reneau provided details on a new incentive for Oklahoma businesses to participate in a workplace safety program which has already achieved dramatic results, the Oklahoma Department of Labor said.

Reneau outlined the new incentives for participation in the Labor Department’s Safety Pays program, which was developed by Reneau and her staff in the 1990s, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor.

New rules authorized under the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Standards Act went into affect just three weeks ago, after completion of an administrative process that began with passage of comprehensive Workers’ Compensation Reform legislation in 2005. The OSHA Consultation Division’s rules have been revised to provide an exemption from taxable income in the amount of $1,000 for the tax year for eligible employers. Those eligible are businesses in the private sector requesting and completing a “full service” consultation in the program provided by the Oklahoma Department of Labor.

Also in June 2005, the Legislature passed and Gov. Brad Henry signed into law more money for OSHA Consultation. In final debate, members of the House praised Labor Department workplace safety programs, and public employees there who help to reduce workers’ compensation costs.

“Through our free, non-punitive, confidential and guaranteed safety and health consultation program called Safety Pays, injuries can rapidly decrease. As a result, the workers’ compensation insurance costs to business can be reduced substantially. This program has been working well for a decade, savings millions of dollars for businesses and bringing positive attention to working conditions in Oklahoma,” Reneau said.

The new rules also support reporting of public (government) sector safety data, according to Reneau: “Under the new state OSHA Rules, public sector employers are to provide employment injury and illness data to the Oklahoma Department of Labor.”

Gov. Brad Henry boosted this objective earlier this year with a proclamation stating that reporting public sector injury and illness data to the Labor Department was a priority for his administration.

“The voluntary Safety Pays OSHA Consultation program for the private sector allows our Industrial Hygienists and Safety Consultants to walk through, evaluate and follow up for businesses who want to create a safer environment for workers,” Reneau said.

Oklahoma Labor Department consultants and industrial hygienists differ greatly from their federal counterparts in one distinct area – they don’t write fines or issue citations. Oklahoma OSHA consultants will identify hazards, assist employers in correcting those hazards and work with both management and employees to improve or establish safety programs.

Commissioner Reneau explained, “Businesses do not have to be SHARP recipients in order to receive consultation and be considered for the $1000 exemption; however, it is something that businesses can be qualified for as well after consultation. The rewards this program have already brought to participating businesses are breath-taking,” Reneau said.

Employers wishing to schedule a safety consultation for their business, and/or to learn more about the new tax exemption, should call the Oklahoma Department of Labor’s OSHA Consultation Division toll-free, at 1-888-269-5353, Ext. 275. Information is also available at the agency’s Web site. The service is provided through a 90 percent federal, 10 percent state-funding match.