"OSHA has been fortunate in 2010 to receive a substantial budget increase - enough to significantly increase the number of inspectors we can put into the field. But there's only so much a dedicated inspector can do when many of our standards are out of date," says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels.
Here are the priorities he outlined for the agency at the NIOSH Going Green Workshop in mid December, just days after taking over the top spot at OSHA.
1. Ensure workers are engaged in the work process. It's clear that we must move toward a permanent system where employers and workers come together, on a basis of mutual respect, to assess and abate hazards. I've long advocated that every employer establish a Comprehensive Workplace Safety and Health Program that features management leadership, worker participation, and structure that fosters continual improvement.
2. Improve chemical safety. OSHA currently regulates about 500 chemicals, based mostly on science from the 1950s and 1960s. And OSHA has issued just two chemical standards in the past 12 years. The European Community's REACH program will provide American industry and workers with more and better information about the chemicals they are exposed to. The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals will also contribute consistency, efficiency and additional information.
3. Integrate prevention through design. This is about fundamental change that integrates safety efficiently and thoroughly. Prevention through design asks: Why should we go back and expend time and resources retrofitting hazardous industries to make them safer when we have the ability and the opportunity to begin fresh and make work safe from start to finish?
4. Aggressively pursue rulemaking for urgently needed standards.
This will require input from scientists, engineers, academics, students and workers, as well as business allies who will say "yes" to sensible changes and participate in the rulemaking process with constructive comments and insight.
5. Enhance workers' voice in the workplace. Workers must have much better information about their rights, the hazards they face and controls for those hazards.
Read Dr. Michael's full comments here or browse our huge selection of OSHA safety signs here.