Like most federal regulatory agencies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is feeling the pinch of budget cutbacks. But OSHA's problem may be your opportunity, provided your company maintains high health and safety standards in the workplace. In the past four years, the agency has set up various programs to encourage voluntary compliance with regulations.

The STAR program, for example, allows companies with outstanding health and safety records to be exempt from regular OSHA inspections for a period of up to three years. "Typically, the company must have a three-year record that is better than the industry average," says James Foster, OSHA's director of information, "and it must go through a rigorous application process."

The TRY program is for companies that don't quite meet STAR standards but still have better-than-average records for their industry. Qualifying businesses get a one-year exemption from regular OSHA inspections.

Aside from easing regulatory pressure, the programs may provide indirect benefits as well. According to Foster, participating companies all report that the recognition by OSHA has given a significant boost to employee morale.