Advocacy Meets with Burlington Smalls – A Call for OSHA Regulations

By Joe Knilans, National Rural Affairs Advocate

Advocacy held a regulatory reform roundtable in Vermont in July. One issue that came up at the roundtable in Burlington, was the lack of OSHA regulations.  Before you fall off your chair, let me explain.  The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) is asking OSHA to adopt an industry-written standard.  This standard is called the ANSI A-1048, TIA 42 standards.  OSHA’s rules are difficult for employees to understand and read, leading to non-compliance and counter-productivity.   

The standards that NATE is asking for consideration by OSHA have been crafted by an industry that has 35 years of experience; they were developed by industry people, for industry people.  The industry has also been using the ANSI standard for years.  Who is ANSI?  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is a private non-profit organization that sets standards for ladder safety, fall protection, construction safety, clothing safety and equipment workplace surfaces. 

These standards not only regulate workplace rules; they can have an impact on business expansion.  The uncertainty of OSHA enforcement has small businesses holding off on hiring new employees and investing in their companies.  NATE is concerned that if these new rules are not adopted many small companies will take a wait-and-see approach on expansion.

One of the biggest concerns of the rural areas in our country is lack of e-connectivity.  Adopting these new standards creates certainty in the workplace and will allow for growth in the industry.  With the introduction of 5G, the industry will need to hire and train new technicians and laborers.  Providing them with easy to read and understand work safety standards will help provide e-connectivity to the rural areas.

Another concern that was discussed was workforce development for skilled workers.  Many of the small business try to hire workers right out of high school that are going into the trades.  They are offering apprenticeships for interested workers.  Small businesses are still having difficulties in hiring workers that will pass a standard drug test.  There are also issues with regulations on workers under the age of 21 driving on the interstate.  NATE is looking for a young able-bodied workforce that can drive in all fifty states. In Vermont they can drive in the state but cannot drive across the state line into neighboring states because of federal regulations. 

Currently, the federally mandated minimum driver age for a class A CDL driver’s license is 21 years old. With sufficient training 18-20 year old drivers could help fill the shortage in truck drivers.  Congress has introduced legislation to address the age issue by lowering the age to 18 years of age for a class A CDL. 

This was a very productive and enthusiastic discussion led by concerned small business owners.  Many small business owners realize that they have an opportunity for reform with the current administration.  Attendees expressed surprise that they could communicate their concerns with overburdensome federal regulations to an agency that will listen to them.

Advocacy was in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables July 16-18.

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Joe Knilans serves as the Rural Affairs Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in rural America. Knilans works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of rural America to Washington DC. He can be reached at

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