Michaels Leads Forum on Safety, Health Program Guidance

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Dec. 9 — While OSHA's proposed Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines enjoy wide support, both industry and worker representatives raised concerns about the recommended practices during a Dec. 9 forum held by agency administrator David Michaels.

Safety and health programs “change what is going on in the workplace in very positive ways,” Michaels told more than 100 people gathered at the Department of Labor headquarters. “There is more and more embracing of this concept.”

The idea of revising the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines, last changed in 1989, started with Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO's director of safety and health, Michaels said.

Seminario, speaking at the forum, recalled that she suggested updating the guidelines following OSHA's 2014 decision not to deprioritize a rulemaking on an injury and illness prevention program.

1989 Is History

While the draft guidelines are “a solid foundation,” Seminario said, OSHA needs to broaden the scope to include such issues as workplace violence, health programs and how staff shortages can contribute to mishaps.

The guidelines also need to recognize how workplaces and hazards have changed since 1989.

“The document is still rooted in the industrial, fixed location model,” Seminario said.

Several speakers said the guidelines incorporated many of the safety and health program concepts used in the Voluntary Protection Program and promoted by the National Safety Council, such as employee participation and management involvement.

Seven Elements

The new proposal breaks down safety and health programs into seven “core elements” while the old program (54 Fed. Reg. 3904) established four “major elements.”

Common to both is guidance for management's role, worksite hazard analysis, hazard prevention and training.

New to the draft guidance are outlines for worker participation, program evaluation and coordinating programs at multi-employer worksites.

Temp Worker Issues

The proposed guidelines also address temporary workers, a subject not mentioned in the 1989 recommendations.

La Tanya James-Rouse, assistant general counsel for the American Staffing Association, said that while it was “great” for the guidance to address multi-employer worksites, the guidelines should differentiate between staffing agencies and other groups of workers who may be considered temporary workers such as subcontractors.

Pete Stafford, chairman of OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, said the committee, too, is working on guidelines dealing with the variety of employee/worker relationships at building sites.

Stafford praised the proposed guidelines for including construction, an industry not covered in the 1989 guidance.

Reaching Out

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's executive director of labor law policy, Marc Freedman, asked how OSHA will promote the guidance once it is completed. The audience at the forum already knows the value of safety and health programs, Freedman said.

“You have to reach people who can't spell safety and health,” Freedman added.

Michaels said OSHA will cooperate with industry associations and anyone else to reach employers. He expects the final version of the guidelines to be published in the summer.

Another forum will be held in March at a date, time and location yet to be announced. Through Feb. 15 the agency is accepting written comments at http://www.regulations.gov under Docket No. OSHA-2015-0018-0001.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at brolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The draft proposed guidance is available at http://src.bna.com/bpW.

The 1989 guidance and Federal Register announcement is available at http://src.bna.com/bpV.