Voluntary Protection Program.
Speculation that the Obama administration would
suspend the VPP program received a big
push when Barab, in testimony before
Congress, stated that “OSHA would suspend the previous administration’s practice of establishing goals for new
Voluntary Protection Program sites and
alliances.” This statement raised considerable concern in many quarters, and many
stakeholders questioned how the agency
could justify suspending a program that
has been so successful. Barab later clarified his statement, indicating that OSHA
has no intention of suspending the VPP
program but is simply shifting some of its
resources to the enforcement program.
Worker Safety in Stimulus Projects.
Secretary Solis announced that OSHA would
enforce worker safety as part of stimulus
projects and would increase oversight of
federal worksites. AIHA called for a link
between safety and stimulus projects even
prior to the awarding of stimulus dollars.
Our hope is that the agency expands this
oversight to all stimulus projects, not just
those involving federal workers.
Risk Assessment Rule. The Department
of Labor has officially announced plans
to withdraw the “secret rule” on risk assessment proposed in the waning days of
the Bush administration. The rule would
have changed OSHA’s procedures for determining risks to various chemicals.
Everyone was concerned that the administration would finalize this rule prior to
leaving town, requiring a lengthy process
to rescind it. AIHA opposed the rule, as
did many other stakeholders.
Ergonomics. OSHA has not indicated any
interest in proposing a new ergonomics
standard, but it announced that it would
use the general duty clause to cite employers for ergonomic and workplace violence hazards.
OSHA’s Next Leader?
In late May, many OSH observers believed
that David Michaels, a professor in OHS at
The George Washington University, would
soon be nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
Michaels is the interim chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational
Health and the GWU School of Public
Health. He is also a former Department of
Energy assistant secretary. Michaels has
written that “OSHA badly needs a change
in direction and philosophy” and listed
four goals the agency should undertake—
issue an injury and illness program rule, increase training grants, develop an electronic
recordkeeping system, and change the way
the nation thinks about workplace safety.
CDC’s New Director
The Obama administration named
Thomas Frieden, commissioner of the
New York City Health Department, as di-
rector of the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. Frieden has a medical
degree and a master’s degree in public
health and has indicated his commitment
to scientific values. Most stakeholders
support his appointment and hope that
the CDC and NIOSH will have a closer
working relationship under Frieden.
The following is a quick overview of the
major OHS issues in Congress:
HR 242 would revise regulations on the
recording and reporting of occupational
injuries and illnesses. Employers would
be required to keep a log of all injuries
and illnesses for all employees on a work
site, even those of subcontractors. Passage as a “stand-alone” bill is unlikely. If
it has any chance at all, the bill would
have to be added to the major OSHA reform bill (HR 2067).
HR 849 would require OSHA to issue an
interim and final standard regarding
worker exposure to combustible dust.
Passage of this bill is unlikely. The main
reason for its introduction was to put additional pressure on OSHA to address
HR 2067, known as the “Protecting
America’s Workers Act,” is the main
OSHA reform bill. This bill will continue
to receive considerable discussion in Congress. The bill may have to be split, but
several sections have a good chance of
HR 2113 would require employers with
more than one establishment and not
fewer than 500 employees to report
work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses. This bill was introduced because
of concerns that employers are underre-porting injuries and illnesses. It will receive serious consideration.
HR 2199 would require the Secretary of
Labor to prevent employee exposure to
imminent dangers. Passage of this bill
would give OSHA the authority to address imminent dangers without the approval of the employer.
HR 2381 would require OSHA to issue a
safe-patient handling standard. This bill
will also receive considerable discussion.
While the bill may face a difficult time in
Congress, it will put pressure on the agency
to seriously consider this issue.
son with Congress and federal agencies. He can be
reached at (703) 846-0730 or email@example.com.