In a speech Wednesday to the American Bar Association OSH Law Committee, Jonathan L. Snare, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, outlined the agency’s direction for 2005. Here are highlights of his speech:

  • OSHA will maintain a “balanced approach” of: 1) strong, fair and effective enforcement; 2) outreach, education and compliance assistance; and 3) cooperative and voluntary programs.

  • OSHA’s five-year Strategic Management Plan is on course to achieve the agency’s major objectives by 2008: reducing the occupational death rate by 15 percent and cutting the occupational injury and illness rate by 20 percent.

  • OSHA is committed to expanding outreach, education and compliance assistance through its Web site, its bi-weekly electronic newsletter QuickTakes, and various training programs. The agency will continue working on compliance assistance initiatives on recordkeeping, hazard communication, trenching and reactive chemicals, as well as motor vehicle safety for federal workers. Special attention will be given to Hispanic and other immigrant workers and employers.

  • OSHA will maintain its emphasis on cooperative and voluntary programs. The agency is working on VPP for Construction. Overall, OSHA has formed 304 Alliances to promote the value of safety and health and increased training and outreach, and 221 Strategic Partnerships.

  • OSHA intends to continue a strong yet fair enforcement program, projecting 37,700 inspections for FY 2005 — the same number planned for FY 2003 and 2004. The proposed budget for FY 2006 envisions the same number. Site Specific Targeting (SST) will continue to be used to identify employers with the highest injury and illness rates. Other strategies for inspection targeting include new task groups for health inspections, national and local emphasis programs, and the Enhanced Enforcement Program.

  • OSHA plans to better address cases that might be referred for criminal prosecution by providing specialized training to its compliance officers such as specialty criminal investigation courses.

  • In FY 2005, OSHA will continue work on the standards that are on its regulatory agenda including the proposed standard for hexavalent chromium. Earlier in this fiscal year OSHA issued a final rule for the Standards Improvement Project and also launched an effort to update the consensus standards over the next several years. In the coming months, the agency expects to issue proposals for electric power transmission and distribution in construction, confined spaces in construction, general working conditions in shipyards, and explosives. It also intends to have final action on assigned protection factors for respirators, employer payment for PPE, and electrical safety, and will continue with its “four-pronged approach” to ergonomics. OSHA will also be working on the proposals for crystalline silica and beryllium.