OSHA has high profile at AOHC 2003 meeting

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) took center stage at the opening general session of the 2003 American Occupational Health Conference (AOHC) in Atlanta, with OSHA administrator John Henshaw hailing "the new OSHA."

AOHC is the annual joint meeting of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. (AAOHN) based in Atlanta, and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) in Arlington, IL. Henshaw’s remarks were made during the key-note address on May 7.

OSHA will be moving forward in three major areas, Henshaw told the audience of about 3,000 occupational health professionals. They will include:

  • enforcement;
  • outreach, education, and compliance assistance;
  • strategic partnerships.

"Over the next 12 months, you will see more production than you’ve ever seen [from OSHA]," Henshaw predicted, noting that in the past OSHA had published larger lists of proposals than at present, but had not necessarily followed through on as many as might have been anticipated. Over the next year, he told attendees to anticipate eight proposals and three final rules. Henshaw made reference, for example, to the recently released ergonomic guidelines for nursing homes and the soon-to-be-released ergonomic guidelines for retail facilities.

Outward-looking agency

Henshaw painted a picture of a more outward-looking agency, seeking greater input from health care professionals and placing a greater emphasis on creating new alliances 

While noting that OSHA will of necessity remain in the enforcement business and calling the three major strategies "equally important," he left the clear impression that outreach and strategic partnerships would have higher profiles.

"Enforcement works for about 2% of the working population," Henshaw noted. "For the other 98%, we need something else."

That something else must include increased training and greater communications, he said. For example, for the past year OSHA has been offering QuickTakes, an e-mail news memo, for which health care professionals can sign up on the OSHA web site (www.osha.gov.) At present, there are nearly 32,000 subscribers.

OSHA’s outlook on ergonomics is particularly illustrative of Henshaw’s emphasis on cooperation and partnerships. "In addition to ergonomic guidelines," he noted, "We’re looking to industry to make its own contribution — to take steps to fix its own problems."

One example of "helping industry help itself" are the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPPs). "We help the employer set up the program and then we walk away," Henshaw explained, calling VPPs "our premier employer partnership program," and adding, "We’re looking to expand all of these programs significantly."