Thought Leadership

Safety pros would benefit by eliminating OSHA's standards office

August 24, 2011
I just saw a news article that reported the Obama administration's budget director has issued instructions to each of the federal agencies to prepare for 5-10reg percent budget reductions.

I would be supportive of budget reduction actions that eliminated the OSHA Standards Directorate and reinvented OSHA as an enforcement and compliance assistance agency, possibilities you raised in an earlier blog.

You stated in your blog that the OSHA Standards Directorate "has not been productive in decades." It is not really their fault. It is just that they got the standards for the significant "horizontal" hazards done. The "Safety Manual" has been written, so to speak. Basic protections for employees have been established in law. Yes, revisions to the crane standard were done — but that took years over two administrations — and most of it was done by the crane manufacturers and contractors.

Having the OSHA Standards Directorate remain in place with nothing much to do permits the political leadership of OHSA to use them for political agenda-driven mischief such as I2P2 (the Injury and Illness Prevention Program that has been widely touted, but not yet proposed by the agency.)

Shutting down OSHA Standards would also shift the center of gravity of safety away from DC and the politicized environment  — to where, I don't know, but it would be interesting to watch the process. 

That, in turn, might inspire our professional organizations to shift resources that have been focused on Government Affairs to enhancing our professional image as independent and value-add to our customers. Risk Assessment and Sustainability could become our professional image instead of OSHA. That would be a professional benefit. It would also likely be a budget improvement for our professional organizations.

Without understanding more of the consequences, I would not be supportive of reducing the number of OSHA area offices or shifting compliance officers to independent contractors  — which you raised as a doomsday long-shot in your blog on OSHA budget cuts. To me, that would not be supportive of OSHA's reinvention as an enforcement and compliance assistance agency.

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