At the conclusion of OSHA press releases you find a summary statement of the agency’s mission. Over the years, depending on the powers controlling the agency, the wording of the mission statement changes.

During the tenure of John Henshaw as OSHA chief earlier this decade, for example, the mission statement talked of how the agency “adds value” to businesses through safety performance improvements. In his public and private industry career, Henshaw has been a strong advocate of making the “business case” for workplace safety and health interventions. He also oversaw OSHA at a time, sources tell ISHN, when Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao privately made it clear to OSHA personnel that the agency would emphasize cooperation and compliance tools over standards-setting and anything close to an activist agenda. The press release tag line from an August, 2003 press release reads: “OSHA is dedicated to saving lives, preventing injuries and illnesses and protecting America's workers. Safety and health add value to business, the workplace, and life.”

Two years ago, in April, 2007 while Edwin Foulke was OSHA administrator, an official OSHA press release concluded with this mission statement: “OSHA’s role is to assure the safety and health of America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.”

Now under Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, OSHA press releases sport a new mission statement with a harsher tone: “OSHA's mission is to assure the safety and health of America's working men and women by preventing injuries, illnesses and fatalities. OSHA operates a vigorous enforcement program, conducting almost 39,000 inspections and finding nearly 88,000 violations of its standards and regulations in fiscal year 2008.”

Sources tell ISHN that Solis has privately emphasized that she sees OSHA as a strong enforcement agency. And the public mission statement citing the number of inspections, violations and “vigorous enforcement” bears that out.