Reducing Risk, Protecting People

UPDATED: OSHA chief – "faster, better decision making"

Posted by Clarion Safety Systems | 29th Dec 2009

David Michaels (OSHA bio here) has taken over as assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, and as such is the nation's point man for workplace safety. Look for him to have a central role on a host of workplace issues, and know that we will see a newfound aggressiveness from the agency, backed by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Michaels holds a PhD and is an epidemiologis. Before joining OSHA on December 9, 2009, he was professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services.

On Dec. 16, he spoke at a NIOSH Going Green workshop, and his comments were telling. Here's an excerpt on chemicals, as he said the country is woefully slow in dealing with such hazards:

I have a vision of a greener world where there is full and complete hazard information available for every chemical and every chemical mixture; where science is at work not only to make more effective and more profitable chemicals, but safer chemicals, too. I dream of a world where workers can collaborate on an equal basis with management to find safe chemicals and develop and implement processes that won't put workers in danger.

There's an enormous chasm to bridge between the ideal future and the imperfect present. Today we suspect that at least a couple of thousand high-use chemicals out there may present some threat to worker health. Yet, OSHA currently regulates about 500 chemicals, based mostly on science from the 1950s and 1960s. How many chemical standards has OSHA issued in the past 12 years? Two – and one of these two only came about because of a court order! We haven't been keeping up with the science.

He also outlined what he called five "Green Reform Principles" about how workplace safety ought to be approached in the context of a Green economy. It's good reading, check it out.

Here's a PDF of Michaels' talk, and the video is here. Note that the video is in two parts.

NOTE: Clarion Safety Systems can provide a full range of product safety labels, safety signs, arc flash labels and related safety products to keep your workplaces and machinery safe. These warnings are designed to ensure compliance with today's best-practice standards outlined in ANSI Z535.

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