Good Monday morning,
OSHA REFORM: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING?
DC insiders say it looks less likely that OSHA penalties across the board will be increased and criminal prosecutions broadened as part of the much ballyhooed OSHA Reform Package. OSHA reform legislation has yet to be voted on in the House, where Dem majority could easily push it through.
After November, all bets are off as GOP is seen with better than 50-50 chance of taking the majority of seats in the House.
In the Senate, word is several Dem senators are bailing on OSHA reform and want a vote strictly on MSHA reforms.
The OSH Act hasn’t been changed by any substantial legislation in 40 years. Anything OSHA is like kryptonite to most lawmakers, so they just stay away. And now, with the economy skunking along and jobless rates high, the GOP seizes on tighter regulations as proposed in the OSHA Reform package as out-of-touch job killing legislation.
NO DAWDLING AND DITHERING AT OSHA HQ.
The political climate is becoming less hospitable to aggressive regulators, thanks to the shaky economy that breeds fear and uncertainty. Still, OSHA boss Dr. David Michaels and his leadership team is moving full speed ahead where there are no obstacles. Or at least no obstacles YET. Much of OSHA’s most controversial projects are in the embryonic stages.
OSHA is more relevant than in 20 years, measured by headlines across the country reporting on enforcement cases.
Work continues on the sweeping injury and illness prevention program, which will require employers to call on employees to help find and fix hazards.
Work-related musculo-skeletal disorders (WMSD) are back on the radar screen, in a proposal to track WMSDs separately in recordkeeping.
The Voluntary Protect Protection is faces tough scrutiny about how to fund its future -unlike anything VPP has encountered since its inception.
STRESS AND FATIGUE
OSHA has also signaled it will take a serious look at the effects of stress and fatigue among healthcare workers, and more broadly among workers who are compensating for layoffs by hauling longer shifts and taking on expanded responsibilities. The harsh economy is forcing the issue. Historically, NIOSH has dived in and written much about job stress and fatigue, while OSHA has said very little. Look for that to change.
BUBBLING ON THE BACK BURNER
Many of these OSHA issues here in late 2010 are slowly heating up on the agency’s back burner. In 2011 these issues will be piping hot: injury and illness prevention programs, the fate of VPP, ergo-injury recordkeeping (if you are identifying them, what then are you doing about them?).
A second Obama term will be necessary for this aggressive OSHA leadership team to really leave its mark. 2012 will be the election year, a time when regulators go into mute mode to avoid embarrassing POTUS.
Another four years will allow the injury illness prevention program a chance to play out and become finalized, the VPP question to be resolved, questions about what to do with outdated PELs and ergo hazards to be answered, and any plans to regulate fatigue (hours of duty) and job stress (very tricky) to pan out.