In the absence of a full Senate committee question and answer hearing, OSHA chief nominee Dr. David Michaels of George Washington University provided senators with written answers to submitted questions.

Wrote Dr. Michaels: “There are many regulatory changes needed at OSHA. Three of the most important ones are:

  • Completing rulemaking on some of the proceedings that are currently underway, including silica, beryllium, cranes and derricks, and the globally harmonized system (GHS).

  • Promulgating a combustible dust standard.

  • Initiating rulemaking for an occupational safety and health program standard.”

Regarding thepossibility of issuing an ergonomics standard, Dr. Michaels wrote:

“OSHA could not use the general duty clause to implement ergonomics standards or other standards, but can and currently does use the general duty clause in those situations described in the Field Operations Manual. According to its FOM, OSHA applies the general duty clause only in situations where there is no standard that applies to t he particular hazard, and in situations where a recognized hazard is created in whole or in part by conditions not covered by a standard.”

Asked if he believed thatan ergo standard that focused on just one industry would be substantially the same as the ergo rule rescinded in 2001 by a Congressional Review Act resolution, Dr. Michaels wrote: “The determination of ‘substantially the same’ is a legal question, and I would defer to the opinion of the Solicitor of Labor as to whether any proposed new standard, should one be proposed, is ‘substantially the same’ as the rescinded rule.”

Asked toelaborate on his ideas for a comprehensive workplace safety and health program standard,Dr. Michaels wrote: “Two important tools used by employers in abating hazards are their expertise (and that of their personnel) and common sense. These exist across all industries. OSHA should not attempt to issue a standard for prescribing employer behavior for every potential hazard – employers should apply their expertise and common sense. A program standard would encourage employers to do that, without taking a one-size-fits-all approach to hazard abatement.”

Dr. Michaels went on to write: “I am not familiar with OSHA’s Safety and Health Program draft rule developed in the mid-1990s. If confirmed, I plan to consider promulgation of a safety and health program standard, and if so, it will be added to OSHA’s regulatory agenda.”

Asked ifhe planned to emphasize enforcement over outreach, Dr. Michaels wrote: “Both consultation and enforcement are important OSHA functions, vital to the mission of the agency. If confirmed, I would continue to support OSHA’s successful programs in both of these areas.”

Asked, “What is your message to employers who have been hearing very aggressive rhetoric from the Secretary and the Acting Assistant Secretary and, as a result, are wary of interacting with the Department,” Dr. Michaels wrote: “My message to employers is that employers who provide a safe workplace or are seeking help from OSHA in providing a safe workplace have no reason to be concerned. It is my understanding that OSHA is eager to assist those businesses, especially small businesses, who think there are hazards in their workplaces and need help identifying or abating those hazards.”