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Reactions to Michaels' OSHA nomination (8/27)

August 27, 2009
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“A very politically connected (Clintonite) academic? Hmmm…

“According to the International Journal of Epidemiology, the American Journal of Public Health, and other scientific publications, Michaels was ‘the chief architect of the Labor Department-managed Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, which has paid out more than $5 billion in benefits to sick workers and their relatives to compensate them for illnesses caused by exposure to radiation, beryllium, and other hazards during the production of atomic weapons. He oversaw promulgation of two major public rules, Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention (10 CFR 850) and Nuclear Safety Management (10 CFR 830), the bio says.”

“I wonder what the $5B deal was all about? That’s a huge amount for money for worker illness compensation. The largest ever? That’s five times the cost of the Hudson River PCB clean up, which threatens to be the single most expensive environmental clean up.

Keith Tait, CIH

(Editor’s Note: The U.S. Department of Labor announced July 27, 2009, that it has paid more than $5 billion in compensation and medical benefits to more than 52,600 claimants nationwide under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA). This milestone coincides with the eighth anniversary of the Labor Department's administration of the EEOICPA, which provides compensation and medical benefits to employees who became ill as a result of working in the nuclear weapons industry.

On July 31, 2001, the Labor Department began administering Part B of the EEOICPA. Part B covers current or former workers who have been diagnosed with cancers, beryllium disease or silicosis, and whose illness was caused by exposure to radiation, beryllium or silica while working directly for the U.S. Department of Energy, that department's contractors or subcontractors, designated Atomic Weapons Employers or beryllium vendors. Since 2001, the Labor Department has delivered compensation to more than 37,200 claimants under the Part B provisions of the act.

Part E, created by an amendment to the act on October 28, 2004, provides federal compensation and medical benefits to contractors and subcontractors of the Department of Energy who worked at covered facilities and sustained an illness as a result of exposure to toxic substances. Under the Labor Department's administration, the Part E benefit payout already has exceeded $1.6 billion.

The EEOICPA also provides additional compensation to uranium workers who worked at Section 5 uranium mines, uranium mills and ore buying stations covered under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. Certain survivors of nuclear weapons industry workers are also eligible for benefits under Part B and Part E.)



“He got the nod because he is at the George Washington University and there’s no moving expense allowance needed.”

Anonymous



“It’s going to be very interesting the next couple of years down in DC. I have a feeling that industry and Michaels will not see eye to eye on many things.

“I'd personally like to see a greater push for integrating safety and industrial hygiene into DESIGN. Some of our top design concerns are:


  • Noise (the Veterans Administration pays out over $1 billion a year to military veterans with hearing loss as a primary disability)
  • Vibration
  • Ergonomics
  • Confined Space
  • Electrical
  • Hazardous Materials/Ventilation
  • Heat Stress
  • Fall Protection


“It will be interesting to see if Dr. Michael's increases the use of epidemiology to drive OSHA priorities. Hopefully, there will be an increasing synergy with academia and NIOSH.”

Joy Erdman, MS, CIH, CSP



”I think myself and probably a good portion of the readers would be interested in seeing OSHA do the following in order of my list of priorities.


  • Update the OSHA PELs and then enforce the PELs
  • Enforce the dust grain handling standard (1910.272) and continue the creation of a comprehensive dust handling standard for all industries.
  • Under Haz Com (1910.1200) update the standard to reflect the realities of GHS. Include dusts hazards in the haz com standard specifically spelled out.
  • Update the PPE standards (Subpart I - Personal Protective Equipment 1910.134-139) to reflect today's current technologies and changes from when the standard was created.
  • Ergonomics


“I believe that the grain dust standard is pretty good. I just don't feel that there is enough proactive inspections from OSHA on this. I believe more could be done here.

”Also, I know that OSHA is working on a general industry standard for explosive dusts. I hope that makes it thru the process. Too many dust explosions that have occurred outside of the grain handling industry.

”As we all know, what gets inspected, documented and cited usually gets paid attention to.

”Notice that ergo is pretty far down my priority list. In my mind, if we could get the first two done we would have come a very long way. The next three would then be a huge bonus.

Aaron Chen, CIH



“I thought law and order was a right wing issue. I really disagree that Barab is ‘far left’. I understand that we would all like to think that our companies will do the right thing, and that it doesn’t matter what OSHA does. I doubt it. There would be significantly less demand for safety professionals if OSHA didn’t exist. The ASSE would have 300 members, not 30,000, if there were no OSHA. We’d all need a lot fewer accountants if there were no IRS, but that isn’t going to happen. Does anyone that that if the IRS didn’t enforce tax laws that everyone would just send in their payments? I think this shows the political naivete of safety and health professionals.”

Anonymous



“If Dr. Michaels wants that damn OSHA job...God bless him.”

Steve Damsker

“Time will tell. I tend to be very skeptical of what and should be accomplished by either a Democrat or Republican administration.”

Anonymous



“The only thing that comes to my mind is Twilight Zone as I immediately started wondering ‘what year is this.’ Hmmm… need to change how business views workplace safety, ergonomics is expensive to biz and damaging to workers. Ergonomic standard a priority…

“Call me crazy but the record seems broken and the circle seem vicious.”

Anonymous



“Things are definitely not sleepy this year in DC. Not sure if or when I will take a vacation.

“These certainly are exhilarating times. I’ve been here since 1980 with Carter, and this is as close as it gets and it may turn out to be even better than those hey Eula Bingham days.

“Definitely not Clinton and triangulation — Obama is the real deal.

“David and Jordan are both good friends of mine. I know you journalists like controversy, but you left out the part that David was confirmed last time by a Republican Senate when he got the Department of Energy - with a similar sized budget and staff.

“Can’t think of a better reason for all H&S professionals to support and vote for Obama in 2012. We have a lot of work to do. It will take more than four years to dig ourselves out of the hole OSHA is in.

Bill Borwegen, director of safety and health, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)



“I believe it imperative that OSHA issue a safety system management standard. If the new leadership was bold, the standard could be titled, ‘Safety and Risk Management Standard.’ Such as standard would provide an organized, generally consistent and measurable approach to guide organizations in how they approach safety and risk management.

Nevertheless, components of the standard might include:
  1. Visible, active leadership participation actions and activities
  2. Communication requirements
  3. Employee involvement and recognition practices
  4. Recordkeeping and annual system measurement and improvement requirements
  5. Periodic assessment/inspection practices
  6. Medical treatment and return to work practices
  7. Emergency response practices
  8. Orientation and training principles and practices
  9. Written and communicated safe work practices
  10. Written safety and health policy


Implemetation of such a standard might be too much to hope for, given OSHA's past performance and the political opposition likely to exist. Oh well, one can hope, I suppose.

Ted Ingalls, Performance Management Consultants Goodyear, Arizona

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