A Changing of the Guard at OSHA

On the 5th of August, President Obama selected Dr. David Michaels, a research scientist and professor from George Washington University, as the new head of OSHA.  How will this affect you and your business?

OSHA has had a relatively quiet existence over the last presidential administration, placing a high value on the development of OSHA Cooperative programs through partnerships such as the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).  Monies and authority were relatively limited, which will not be the case with Dr. Michaels at the helm.

According to the New York Times editorial on August 6, 2009, Dr. Michaels has been advocating for years that OSHA “badly needs a change in direction and philosophy and that the primary goal should not be better enforcement but rather a bold campaign to change the workplace culture of safety.”

Business & National Affairs (BNA) reported in their May 21, 2009 Occupational Safety & Health Reporter that Michaels has given hints of what he might do as OSHA Administrator.  In the Winter 2009 issue of the New York Committee of Occupational Safety and Health’s SafetyRep newsletter, Michaels defined four objectives the agency should undertake:

  • Issue a workplace injury and illness prevention program rule
  • Increase training grants
  • Develop a new electronic recordkeeping and reporting system
  • Launch a campaign to change the way the nation thinks about workplace safety.

The first objective on Michaels’ list will require each business owner to develop a written safety and health program. Accomplishing an effective and comprehensive written program is easier said than done. Nonetheless, it is a foundational element in creating the workplace culture of safety Michaels talks about. 

For more information on how to develop your own written safety and health program, check out MEMIC’s Safety Director. If you are not already registered at Safety Director, go ahead and register to have access to beneficial information, such as “Safety Director for Small Business” and “7 Steps to a Safer Workplace” to assist you with your own written safety and health program. You can even survey your organization against 4 key drivers:

  • Workplace Conditions
  • Human Resource
  • Medical Management
  • Company Culture

Other sites to help you with your written safety and health program are the National Safety Council and OSHA.


Posted by Dan Cote