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OSHA chief: Focus on preventing tragedies
'Fundamental change in workplace culture'
On January 18, OSHA administrator David Michaels, PhD, MPH, gave a speech to the advocacy group Public Citizen in Washington, DC. Here is what he had to say about an Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule:
For most of the 20th century, workplace safety and health reform has been reactionary the result of a tragedy, such as the wave of reforms following the death of 146 garment workers in the Triangle Factory fire in New York, 100 years ago on March 25.
We are now a decade into a new century, and OSHA's focus must be on preventing tragedies before they happen. Government can't be the only watchdog for workers; there simply aren't enough inspectors to cover the country. The burden of workplace safety and health must lie with employers. Last year we announced that OSHA is working toward proposing a rule that would require employers to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
This effort is part of the Department of Labor's new initiative Plan, Prevent, Protect. It represents the most fundamental change in workplace culture since the passage of the OSH Act.
With this change, employers would be required to take an active approach to ensuring safe and healthful conditions for their workers. There will be no more waiting for a worker to get sick, hurt or killed to address a problem; no waiting for OSHA to show up to do an inspection; no playing a deadly game of "catch me if you can" with the government while risking the lives of workers.
This plan would make it mandatory for employers to develop a plan to find and fix their workplace hazards and not just the hazards covered by OSHA standards, but all recognized hazards.
Since announcing this regulatory effort almost a year ago, we have held a series of stakeholder meetings and conducted critical research. We are poised to begin a small business review this summer, and we are committed to persuading business owners that this plan is in their best interest.