John Henshaw, the first OSHA Assistant Secretary to come from a VPP company, told the 17th Annual Voluntary Protection Program Participants Association (VPPPA) conference in New Orleans last month that OSHA must "sell the value of what we do to our customers and continuously improve our deliver of that value to all stakeholders."

OSHA will become more outwardly focused, more engaged with its customers and more focused on meeting their needs in the pursuit of improving job safety and health, said the former director of environment, safety and health for Solutia, Inc.

"The enforcement hammer must always be in our bag and used where necessary," said Henshaw. "But like a good craftsman, we must know how to use all our tools that drive safety and health and to pick the right tool for the job."

He named four priorities for OSHA:

1) Provide leadership in the national dialogue on safety and health. "I would like to see OSHA move from the sidelines to the frontlines and lead the nation in lock step with key stakeholders like VPPPA, labor, trade and professional organizations." This, he said, will require a lot of discussion, planning and hard work.

2) Carry out strong, effective and fair enforcement. To accomplish this, OSHA must ensure its inspectors have the skills, training and expertise they need to do the job. "Enforcement is the very underpinning of our work - it will not be diminished." He also expressed the desire to become more of a partner with organizations such as NAM and less of an adversary.

3) Expand its outreach, education and compliance assistance efforts. This is where OSHA will see the greatest opportunities in improving compliance and reducing injuries and illnesses, he said. "You will see in this administration a renewed emphasis on compliance assistance."

4) Improve voluntary efforts with partnerships on both the macro and micro levels. Noting that VPP is the leader in pursuing injury and illness reductions, Henshaw stressed the importance of engaging all employers to "get on the ladder of injury and illness reductions."