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Can OSHA keep up with its alliances?

December 19, 2003
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Skeptics wonder if OSHA has the resources to keep pace with its steady stream of announcements on alliances and partnerships. In an interview December 10, ISHN asked OSHA chief John Henshaw if his agency is struggling to keep up.

"Obviously there is a limit to what we can do with alliances and partnerships," said Henshaw. "I think we're probably right around the number of partnerships that we can sustain. Right now we have about 120 active partnerships. I think we can increase that a little bit more but there's going to be a limit."

Henshaw said partnerships are resource intensive because OSHA has to be on site, conducting evaluations, inspections or training programs. They are short-term projects (two to four years) focused on reducing specific hazards or types of injuries. Alliances, of which OSHA has signed about 120, are more educational and less demanding on the agency because they draw on the resources of large associations and trade groups for the most part.

But do alliances pay off? Do they deliver results? Henshaw said OSHA measures each alliance by the products it produces — training materials and conferences, for instance.

He adds: "At the end of two years or whatever the time frame is, we ought to be able to look back on the outcomes — the triple bottom line of injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Have we impacted that with an alliance? We have alliances dealing with ergonomics and amputations. We ought to be able to measure before and after. Before you had amputations here, now you have them at this lower level."

Has anything like this been done yet with an alliance?

"Not yet," said Henshaw. "Alliances are a little more than a year old. We don't have that sort of data. We have the activities and the products, things like that, but as far as the triple bottom line effect, we don't have that."

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