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OSHA chief Michaels goes public with top priorities (12/18)

December 18, 2009
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Kathy Seabrook, owner of the consultancy Global Solutions, Inc. and Global Solutions International Ltd. (www.globalehs.com) tells ISHNshe represented the American Society of Safety Engineers, as Sustainability & Safety Professional Chair, at the NIOSH Green Jobs: Making Green Jobs Safe Workshop held this week. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (aka the OSHA boss) Dr. David Michaels, all of five days into his new job replacing acting OSHA chief Jordan Barab, provided the closing presentation for the workshop.

According to Kathy Seabrook, Michaels for the first time publically outlined his areas for OSHA emphasis and reform:
  • aggressively pursuing a plan (similar to plans to reform EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act) to update hundreds of chemical exposure limits set in the 1950s and 1960s and figure out a way to set chemical exposure standards at pace greater than two in the past 12 years, which is OSHA’s current track record;
  • aggressive rulemaking for essential standards, such as a national workplace injury and illness prevention program;
  • emphasis on prevention through design rather than retrofitting hazardous operations to make them safer;
  • giving workers a greater voice in workplace safety than they now have;
  • take a hard look at incentive and disciplinary programs to ensure they do not discourage worker reporting of injuries and illnesses.
In response to a question from ISHN, Kathy described Dr. Michaels as “comfortable in his own suit, well-spoken, not an academician; not a bureaucrat or politician per se. He was on point, knowledgeable, professional and spoke with conviction on his priorities. He is not a Barab in personality so there is a difference in delivery. Michaels was deliberate and disarming at once.”

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