NIOSH offers no-cost worksite evaluations
The Healthcare Reform Bill might benefit productivity
OSHA is planning for increased enforcement - and higher fines
Construction safety tips and myths
Paul Sandefer, President
Employers who ignore OSHA's rules and risk workers' lives should pay higher penalties, OSHA Assistant Secretary Michaels told Congress in March. Monetary penalties for violations of the OSH Act have been increased only once in 40 years.
"Safe jobs exist only when employers have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA's requirements. Those incentives are affected, in turn, by both the magnitude and the likelihood of penalties. Swift, certain and meaningful penalties provide an important incentive to 'do the right thing. However, OSHA's current penalties are not large enough to provide adequate incentives," said Michaels.
Michaels illustrated the disparity between OSHA penalties and those of other agencies: In 2001, a tank of sulphuric acid exploded at a refinery, killing a worker and literally dissolving his body. OSHA's penalty was $175,000. In the same incident, thousands of dead fish and crabs were discovered, allowing an EPA Clean Water Act violation amounting to $10 million.
Whistleblower recommendations include increasing the existing 30-day deadline for filing an 11(c) complaint to 180 days, and reinforcing current employee protections against retaliation.
NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard commented on the recently passed Healthcare Reform bill and its provisions regarding workplace health and safety. The bill authorizes many new programs targeting prevention and wellness. Included in these programs is the authority for CDC to conduct research and provide technical assistance related to employer-based wellness programs. The bill directs the CDC Director to:
At this time, it's not clear if NIOSH will play a part in these duties. The bill also establishes the National Health Care Workforce Commission, with membership to include health professionals, employers, third party payers and labor unions. Responsibilities of the Commission include a requirement to "submit recommendations to Congress, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services about improving safety, health, and worker protections in the workplace for the healthcare workforce."
OHSA recently held a Q & A session to gather ideas about the Dept. of Labor's strategic direction over the next six years. According to a plan overview, "OSHA is focusing on actively promoting safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by: setting and enforcing workplace safety and health standards; delivering effective enforcement; providing outreach, education and compliance assistance; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health."
Strategies to achieve these goals include:
You can review a draft of the plan here.