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OSHA boss names his two top priorities (6/23)

Promulgating a sweeping injury and illness prevention program standard, (I2P2) which would require employers to find and fix hazards, and modernizing OSHA’s injury and illness data collection system are the top priorities OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels wants to see completed during his time at the agency, he told a group of reporters following his speech last week to about 500 safety and health pros at ASSE’s national meeting in Baltimore.

During his speech Dr. Michaels ran down an ambitious slate of action items OSHA is currently pursuing: a combustible dust standard; another go at attempting to devise a means of updating permissible exposure levels (PELs) and regulating new toxic chemicals; a revised MSDS standard to align with the United Nations global harmonization of data sheets; stronger oversight of state OSHA plans (with reports due this summer to Michaels reviewing the effectiveness of 25 state plans); more outreach to protect Latino workers, at risk of the hardest and most dangerous jobs in America, according to Dr. Michaels; close inspection scrutiny of safety incentive contests that can lead to hiding injuries in order to win prizes; the I2P2 standard; and the recordkeeping modernization standard.

“OSHA is back, we are a strong regulatory agency first and foremost,” Michaels told his ASSE audience.

Indeed, in the past 12 months OSHA has increased: its number of inspectors, the number of inspections, the number of severe violator six-figure penalties, oversight of state plans, scrutiny of employer injury and illness recordkeeping practices, and the list of short and long-term standards proposals on its regulatory calendar (if anything can be considered “short term,” given the bureaucratic hoops any standards initiative must go through).

Because the standards-setting process is so protracted, and OSHA’s internal staff and funding resources so limited, there is no possibility of the agency finalizing all its action items in the remaining years of the first Obama term. Dr. Michaels was asked what he really wants to see completed by 2012. Without hesitation, he quickly named the I2P2 standard and modernizing recordkeeping.

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