DOL's Strategic Plan - Live Q&A Session with OSHA - Static Page
This chat about the DOL Strategic Plan was held on Wednesday, April 7 at 1:45 p.m. EDT with OSHA.
- Go to the interactive version of the chat.
1:41 Moderator: The live chat will begin at 1:45 but you can submit your questions at any time and they will go into a queue. This is a text-only chat; no audio or video is included.
1:43 David Michaels: Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us and taking time to participate in today’s web chat on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s strategic planning process. I’m David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. The Department of Labor and OSHA are now developing our new 6-year strategic plan, to be effective in September. The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) calls on us to solicit and consider the views and suggestions of our stakeholders who might be affected by or interested in our strategic plan. Today we want to hear from you - your ideas, suggestions, and concerns about our strategic goals, our strategies for achieving our goals, measuring our progress and success, and the outcomes we can expect. Let's begin right away - I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say today.
1:44 David Michaels: I am joined by Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary Rich Fairfax, Director of Standards and Guidance Dorothy Dougherty, Director of Cooperative and State Programs Steve Witt, Director of Administrative Programs Kim Locey and Acting Director of Enforcement, Tom Galassi.
1:49 Comment From Scott: What is the current status of HR 2067 and will any aspect of the Bill be in the strategic plan?
1:49 David Michaels: The Obama Administration supports the Protecting America's Workers Act. If enacted OSHA will have more tools at its disposal to protect workers at risk for injury and illness. Our strategic plan is independent of PAWA and will be implemented whether or not PAWA passes.
1:49 Comment From Laura Walter: One of the strategies is to “increase OSHA’s presence in the workplace.” What will this mean for employers, and, specifically, how will OSHA implement this strategy?
1:49 Rich Fairfax: Great question Laura, in FY 2010 OSHA has increased our compliance staff by 110 people, so we will be doing more inspections. Additionally, our strategic plan has a strong emphasis in industrial hygiene. So our health inspectors will be focusing more on industrial hygiene issues, such as noise and hearing loss.
1:50 Jordan Barab: Yes, we have draft performance goals, measures, and indicators and are working on base lines and targets with the department and OMB as part of a strategic plan development process.
1:50 Comment From Sean Mahaney: Have any of the performance goals, measures or indicators been identified at this point in time?
1:51 Comment From Maria V.: It is my experience with employees that require personal protection equipment that are Hispanic employees; do not ask for safety equipment because they feel like they are drawing to much attention to themselves that would be interpreted as negative. I have found in the past that it was necessary to teach them not to think that way and teach them the importance of using all safety equipment for their jobs. The question is, how can OSHA help employers deal with this idiosyncrasy of Hispanic workers in a successful way. This is easy for me because I am a Hispanic employer, employing Hispanic workers. I can see that there are a lot of employers that don’t realize this is a big problem to overcome. The worker needs to know that he has the right to have all the safety equipment he needs to function safely without being fired for it.
1:51 Jordan Barab: Maria, thank you for your question. One of the most critical elements of an effective health and safety program is adequate training of employees on the hazards they face, the protections provided by employers, and their rights under the law to a safe workplace. Employees need to be trained in a language they understand. At the Latino Summit, we will be showcasing effective employer and community-based programs for Latino workers. We hope to make much of this material available on the Web after the summit. We agree that employers must make it clear that they will not discriminate against workers for asking for protective equipment or other safety devices or raising safety concerns.
1:52 Comment From Rob Thomson: I would like to propose a means in which OSHA could achieve their accident reduction goal. To whom should I send the proposal?
1:52 Rich Fairfax: Thanks, Rob. You can e-mail it to me, email@example.com.
1:53 Comment From Luke: The latest final fatality data show that in 2007, more than 40% of all occupational fatalities were related to transportation. The majority of these transportation fatalities (1,414) were highway-related. Highway fatalities outnumbered each of the four leading causes currently being targeted. Transportation/highway does not appear to be an area of emphasis. Can you please discuss the agency’s intention to address transportation safety in the workplace?
1:53 Tom Galassi: Thanks Luke, OSHA does not have jurisdiction for on the road transportation sector accidents. In the past OSHA partnered with stakeholders in promoting seatbelt use and is looking at an initiative on distracted driving with DOT.
1:54 Comment From Megan Raines, CSP: As part of the strategy to strengthen regulatory capabilities, are there any plans to significantly change any existing regulations or add any new regulations (such as robot safety, etc.)?
1:54 Dorothy Dougherty: Megan, We are working hard to make progress on several high-priority rulemakings that have been on OSHA's regulatory agenda for many years. These include the construction cranes and derricks standard, crystalline silica, and the revision of our hazard communication standard to reflect the globally harmonized system of chemical hazard communication. We are also working with OMB and within DOL for ways to streamline the rulemaking process or maximize our resources to save time and effort. For example, we will examine different ways in which we can shorten or simplify our preambles while still meeting our statutory and legal burdens.
1:54 Comment From Dave Madaras: How will you determine when a post injury drug test is disincentive to reporting a workplace injury?
1:54 David Michaels : Dave, you have raised a very important issue. It is clear that there are a number of policies that employers use that discourage injury reporting. This is now very much on our radar screen. You might take a look at the recent article in Business Week that talks about this. Over the next few months, we plan to take a hard look at these polices and are eager to hear from our stakeholders on this issue.
1:55 Comment From Laura Walter: According to this plan, OSHA intends to target hearing loss in manufacturing, illness in general industry/construction, and amputations. What steps will OSHA take to help reduce these injuries and illnesses?
1:55 David Michaels: Thanks Laura, OSHA has, and will continue, its national emphasis programs in these industries. Evidence shows that by targeting these industries and enforcing our standards that address hearing losses, amputations, etc. there will be a reduction of these types of injuries and illnesses. We also plan to continue our outreach activities for both employers and employees in recognizing these hazards.
1:56 Comment From Steve Crouch: The Strategic Plan mentions General Industry and Construction. What is being planned for the Maritime Industry,(specifically Cargo Handling)
1:56 Rich Fairfax: I'm glad you raised this Steve. Because maritime is such a relatively small industry, we have included the maritime industry in with general industry under our strategic plan. The OSHA regions that have maritime jurisdiction have local emphasis programs that focus on maritime issues.
1:56 Comment From Evelyn Sacks - BLR: Hello Dr. Michaels and colleagues. How will you plan to balance the need for strong enforcement with voluntary compliance? Can we expect the current pattern to continue?
1:56 Steve Witt: Evelyn, thanks. We will be working closely with our stakeholders, including VPPPA, to identify new or alternative funding sources. In the meantime, we will be shifting field inspection staff from VPP programs to enforcement activities because the need in that area is particularly great. We recognize that VPP companies do an excellent job; OSHA resources need to be focused on employers who don't understand the importance of protecting their workers, particularly small employers.
1:56 Comment From Sean Mahaney: Can any of those draft measures be shared at this time?
1:56 Jordan Barab: When we are complete with the departmental and OMB process which is scheduled to publish the Strat Plan in September.
1:57 Comment From Anonymous: It is apparent from recent OSHA activities and initiatives, that the Agency is taking a much harsher view of employers' role in workplace safety and health -- budget and resource re-allocations notwithstanding.
1:57 Debbie Berkowitz: We have returned OSHA to its original mission: issuing and enforcing standards that will protect American workers. At the same tiem, we continue to stress the important role of compliance assistance. In fact, OSHA's FY 2011 budget includes a $1.0 million increase for the State Consultation Program, which provides free on-site consultative services for employers who request assistance in achieving voluntary employee protection.
1:59 Comment From Stephen Lee, BNA: What role will a health and safety program standard play in OSHA's strategic plan?
1:59 David Michaels: Thanks Stephen. If we go to a safety and health program standard, it will be an important tool we can use to achieve the goals of the strategic plan.
1:59 Comment From Anonymous: Confused over the strategic plan. Is it intended to reduce more injuries/illnesses or fatalities? Focusing attention on things like Hearing Loss detracts from preventing deaths in trenches, etc. Why the OSHA strategic plan disconnect?
1:59 Jordan Barab: The first two strategic measures focus on reducing fatalities that occur due to the most common hazards including electrocution, hit by, caught between, and falls.
1:59 Comment From Cindy: The VPP concept recognizes that compliance enforcement alone can never fully achieve the objectives of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Good safety and health management programs that go beyond OSHA standards can protect workers more effectively than simple compliance. So, why is it being proposed that budget money be transferred from VPP to Enforcement?
1:59 Comment From Noreen: As far as VPP what are OSHA's plan for the program in 2011
1:59 Kim Locey: Cindy and Noreen, thanks for the questions about VPP. We are not eliminating the VPP, but due to budgetary issues we are using our limited resources where they are most needed by focusing on employers that do not do a good job protecting their employees. We are looking for non-government funded ways to continue the program.
2:01 Comment From Anonymous: Question: With OSHA's stronger position against employers, particularly with the upcoming SVEP policy, it appears that once a company is "listed as a SVEP", they have no hope of ever getting off the list. There are numerous examples of "bad actors" who have been exemplary performers.
2:01 Tom Galassi: Thanks Anonymous, the new program is aimed at employers who have demonstrated recalcitrance or indifference to their obligations to their OSH Act. Employers will be able to get off the list by demonstrating improved safety and health performance.
2:01 Comment From Cheryl Garretson: If you are focusing on compliance does this mean that you will getting rid of programs such as VPP?
2:01 Steve Witt: Cheryl, thanks for the question. It is not our intention to get rid of VPP. OSHA continues to support the program. We will be redirecting some resources to focus on employers who are not adequately protecting their employees.
2:01 Comment From Carole (via e-mail): Protecting whistleblowers should be part of OSHA's core mission yet whistleblower protections don't even appear in the strategic plan. Why is this?
2:01 Rich Fairfax: Good question Carole, it does appear in the strategic plan, it is addressed under Voice in the Workplace. We also cover whistleblower issues in the regional operating plans.
2:01 Comment From Megan Raines, CSP: As a separate strategy, or possibly as part of maintaining a strong outreach and education program, I would recommend that "employee involvement" be included. This could be in two parts - continuing to encourage companies to involve their employees in safety, as well as to incorporate more in-depth worker engagement during outreach and education visits.
2:01 Jordan Barab: Thanks, Megan, for the question. Employee involvement is a major focus of this administration, and you will see evidence of this in all future OSHA initiatives including outreach, education and new OSHA standards.
2:03 Comment From William Ridge: Are the performance goals going to reflect proactive accident prevention activities or still focus on lagging indicators?
2:03 Rich Fairfax : The new measures focus on current information regarding deaths and hazards related to injuries and illnesses and are no longer based on lagging indicators from the BLS survey data. Meanwhile we are also looking at ways to measure our progress using leading indicators.
2:03 Comment From Carole (via e-mail): The Whistleblower Protection Program urgently needs to develop additional training courses beyond the two basic courses that are now offered. Does OSHA see improving training for investigators as part of its strategic plan?
2:03 Rich Fairfax: Thanks again Carole, I certainly agree, we have revamped the two courses. We will be developing a series of webinars, and we're planning an annual training conference for this year. And...the regions make available local training where appropriate.
2:03 Comment From William Ridge: What about the future of VPP as a cooperative program?
2:03 Steve Witt: William, thank you. VPP will continue to be an important part of OSHA's overall safety and health initives. Due to budget constraints we are looking for alternative non-governmental funding sources.
2:04 Comment From Keith Smith: OSHA's strategic plan highlights that one of the ways the agency seeks to measure its success is through: "Increase worker and employer awareness of OSHA rights, responsibilities and programs to improve “voice in the workplace.” Specifically, it notes that activities to achieve these results include: "expanded outreach and education targeted to small business." It's very important all employers, particularly smaller-sized firms are able to work collaboratively with OSHA. However, I hope to find out more about how the agency seeks to expand its outreach to employers in more detail.
2:04 David Michaels: Thanks Keith, over the next few months we'll be rolling out new activities. Next week, at our Latino worker summit, we will be focusing on employers who employ Spanish speaking workers, especially in the construction sector. I look forward to working closely with you and other employer organizations in improving and expanding our employer outreach.
2:04 Comment From Guest: Is OSHA going to maintain and hopefully work towards improvement in assisting employers who want to make their work places safer, or is OSHA going to go more towards enforcement and simply look to punish employers that don't meet ever letter of the law (29 CRF 1910 and 1926). The lack of and proposed removal of Compliance Assistance Specialists is sending a very scary message. I work to help employers with their safety programs and risk management efforts and have usually found OSHA helpful, but am worried about OSHA being only out to fine employers and not assist them in becoming better.
2:04 Comment From Josh: Will OSHA maintain Compliance Assistance Specialists? I've heard these positions are being eliminated which is quite disturbing for my clients who have benefited greatly from CAS officers in the past.
2:04 Kim Locey: This response is for a Guest and Josh. We are not proposing to eliminate any compliance assistance specialists. In fact, our budget includes a $1.0 million increase for the State Consultation Program, which provides free on-site consultative services for employers who request assistance in achieving voluntary employee protection.
2:05 Comment From Stephen Lee, BNA: What are some of the alternative funding measures being considered for VPP?
2:05 Comment From Megan Raines, CSP: Will there be any changes in the relationship between federal OSHA and the state OSHA agencies going forward?
2:05 Jordan Barab: Stephen, the House Education and Labor Committee has approached us to discuss a fee based system. We are looking at other possible alternatives as well.
2:05 Steve Witt: Megan, we are currently preparing enhanced evaluations of the state plan states. We will evaluate the results of these reports to determine whether changes are needed to the current federal monitoring of the state plan states.
2:05 Comment From Anonymous: As part of OSHA's openness, when will the Agency begin posting online the summaries of the findings from the NEPs, etc. OSHA did this for Combustible Dust which was excellent. But it NEEDS to be done for all NEPs and a periodic basis. For example, provide such summaries maybe quarterly or semi-annually. Will OSHA commit to doing this?
2:05 Tom Galassi: Thanks Guest, that's an excellent recommendation, and one we will seriously consider. We believe sharing that information can have value to the regulated community.
2:06 Comment From Bruce: The original OSHA Act requires employees to follow OSHA regulations. Since most injuries can be directly related to employee error, what is OSHA's plan to assist employers to get employees to follow safety regulations?
2:06 David Michaels: Sorry, Bruce. The science does not support your statement that most injuries are directly related to employee error.
2:06 Comment From Bruce: Mr. Fairfax, you commented on the strong emphasis on Industrial Hygiene in the strategic plan. How can you focus on industrial hygiene issues properly with PEL tables that go back to 1968 in some cases? Will there be work done to update the PELs? No effort has been made since the PEL project in the 90's
2:07 Rich Fairfax: Thanks Bruce, OSHA recognizes that our PELs are outdated. I have put together a task force to examine this issue and welcome your ideas on how OSHA can best address this serious issue. In the interim we will be relying on existing PELs, respiratory protection standard, and hazard communication.
2:08 Comment From Maria V.: Can OSHA approve a software system for employers to keep track of safety equipment for employees? Every time the employee gets the equipment also receives written instructions on proper usage and replacement time. And for all of the ones don’t ask for replacement equipment, the system will assign equipment to them by a schedule policy?
2:08 Jordan Barab: OSHA is not authorized to approve the use of software systems for the public.
2:09 Comment From Marcus: How does, or can, OSHA measure the effectiveness of its' State Consultation Programs?
2:09 Steve Witt: Marcus, thanks for the question. OSHA has a close working relationship with its 53 state consultation programs. We review their progress quarterly and issue an annual evaluation for each program. Their effectiveness is determined through a comparison of the grant application requirements and their accomplishments at the end of the fiscal year.
2:09 Comment From Dale: The 6yr plan mentions a restructure of penalties. Can you elaborate on your current thoughts?
2:09 Rich Fairfax : Thank you Dale, good question. OSHA will shortly be changing our penalty calculation method resulting in higher penalties. Stay tuned.
2:10 Comment From Anonymous: Good afternoon Dr. Michaels, OSHA staff, what is the current administrations plan to address the many interested stakeholders' advocacy of promulgating a safety and health management program, similar to the Cal/OSHA Injury Illness Prevention Program. Would any future OSHA rule require the assessment of hazards in the workplace, including ergonomic hazards?
2:10 David Michaels: Thanks very much. Many leading employers recognize that implementation of a safety and health management system is an effective approach for reducing workplace injury and illness risk. We're looking at ways OSHA can encourage all employers to take this approach. As we move in this direction, we look forward to input and advice from our stakeholders so that we do this in the most effective way.
2:10 Comment From Guest: Will Ergonomics be on the agenda?
2:10 Jordan Barab: The strategic plan consists of general goals. In order to reach these goals we will be addressing a number of work place hazards including ergonomics. For example, we will be adding a musculoskeletal disorder column to the OSHA log next year, and we will be increasing our enforcement activities addressing ergonomic issues.
2:11 Comment From Sara Ditta: The strategic plan outlines an intent to "strengthen regulatory capabilities." How is the agency approaching this goal? Does it include an examination of ways to expedite the rulemaking process? If so, how is the agency working to achieve that? And what else is being considered?
2:11 Dorothy Dougherty: Thanks Sara, we appreciate the need to move faster. We are working with OMB and within DOL for ways to streamline the rulemaking process or maximize our resources to save time and effort. For example, we will examine different ways in which we can shorten or simplify our preambles while still meeting our statutory and legal burdens.
2:11 Comment From Renee (via e-mail): What is the goal of the National Action Summit for Latino workers?
2:11 Jordan Barab: Renee, for the first time we are bringing together over 900 participants including Latino workers, community groups, the faith community, employers, unions, consulates, the medical community, health and safety professionals and government with the goal of reducing injuries and illnesses among Latino workers through enhancing knowledge of their rights and their ability to exercise their rights. The summit will help us leverage our resources through increased partnerships and collaborations to reach Latino workers. We are showcasing effective education materials and programs that can be used by employers, community organizations and others.
2:12 Comment From Steve Crouch: What role will "Alliances" play in the new plan?
2:12 Steve Witt: Steve, thanks. Cooperative Programs, including alliances, will continue to be an integral part of the agency's overall programs. Though we are considering some changes to the alliance model, the agency will continue to support them.
2:13 Comment From Ryan Wells: I was recently told by a CT OSHA area director that recordkeeping will be emphasized going forward during the inspection process. I completely agree with the thought process on accurate recording keeping but non compliant records do not put employees in danger Hence the fine structure should be reconsidered. Small business can not deal with increasing exorbitant record keeping fines in this economy. Are recordkeeping fines going to be increased?
2:13 Rich Fairfax: Thanks for that question Ryan. First, the Recordkeeping NEP is designed to check the accuracy of employer recordkeeping practices and to assure that there are not disincetives to reporting injuries. The penalty structure is outlined in the Field Operations Manual. We do not have plans at this time to make any changes.
2:14 Comment From Anonymous: I am confused as to why posting NEP
2:14 Tom Galassi: What we are referring to is posting the results of a National Emphasis Program presenting our inspection findings on violations and the types of hazards we are finding in the targeted industries. In the past, we believe employers have used this information to help improve their safety and health programs and to guide them in determining prevalent hazards in their industry.
2:14 Comment From Cheryl Garretson: I have been reading about the state run plans that they are really under the microscope. Is Federal OSHA going to take back control of the state run programs?
2:14 Steve Witt: Thanks Cheryl. The Agency continues to support the 27 state plans. There is no plan to "take back" safety and health responsibilities from states that are meeting their obligations.
2:15 Comment From Keith Smith: The draft strategic plan that's been made available includes many high-level goals, results and strategies. Will this draft plan be fortified further to include more specific actions and ways to measure success? For example, one of the activities listed is "achieving an increase in health and safety protections." What types of indiciators will be used to measure these outcomes?
2:15 Jordan Barab: Thanks Keith, yes, the draft strategic plan will be fortified further by including milestones and action plans for monitoring progress toward achievement of our goals. These will include baselines and targets to be periodically monitored.
2:15 Comment From Cindy: Please expand on how OSHA plans to measure "voice in the workplace"
2:15 Jordan Barab: Cindy, good question. We are developing these measures and welcome your input and suggestions. We are enhancing voice in the workplace by expanding our outreach efforts to reach vulnerable workers in high-risk industries with information about their rights and the hazards they face. We are forging new and effective partnerships, providing a new round of grants for non-profits to conduct education and training for high-risk workers, and we have increased our compliance assistance efforts.
2:16 Comment From Ryan: Will the globally harmonized Hazard Communication standard be adapted by OSHA? If so is there any timeline?
2:16 Dorothy Dougherty: Thanks again Ryan. Yes, we recently published a proposal to review the GHS to alighn with the GHS. We just completed public hearings and the post-comment period will end in May at which time we will begin development of the final rule.
2:17 Comment From Megan Raines, CSP: You mentioned that you will be increasing enforcement activities to address ergonomic issues. Can you elaborate? Will this be done under the General Duty Clause?
2:17 Jordan Barab: Thanks Megan, yes, enforcement will be done under general duty clause. We are currently working this process more effective.
2:18 Comment From Anonymous: How will OSHA respond to the OSHRC concerns that increasing penalties to employers will prove overly burdensome to the review commission?
2:18 Rich Fairfax: Thank you for the question. This is an area we are concerned about. We have been having regular discussions with our solicitors, on the resource load due to increased penalties. Our solicitors have also been discussing these issues with the review commission. We intend to have a game plan before going forward.
2:18 Comment From Ryan Wells: How are state run programs held accountable for utilizing the funds which are being increased?
2:18 Steve Witt: Ryan, the states are closely monitored by OSHA's regional offices both programmatically and financially. We are currently engaged in preparing enhanced evaluations of each state plan states. The results of these reports will be used to determine possible changes to the current monitoring system.
2:19 Comment From Guest: Will these questions and answers be posted later for viewing? If so, where?
2:19 Moderator: The chat will still be available as a "replay" on this same web page after the live chat session ends. You can also view the "static" version at http://www.dol.gov/_sec/stratplan/chat/chat-osha-static.htm after this session ends.
2:20 Comment From Anonymous: Response stated that employers can get off the SVEP list by demonstrating improved performance. This is ambiguous particularly since getting on the list is so well defined. Can OSHA look at adding a section to the program which addresses this issue?
2:20 Tom Galassi: Thanks Anonymous, as you may be aware; the SVEP has not been finalized. OSHA will be looking at appropriate ways to remove employers from the list who have demonstrate improved performance.
2:20 Comment From Sara Ditta: In reference to a previous answer, how will OSHA "be increasing our enforcement activities addressing ergonomic issues."
2:20 David Michaels: Until recently, enforcement around ergonomic hazards languished. We recognize that thousands of workers annually suffer from musculoskeletal conditions associated with ergonomic hazards and OSHA must do more. OSHA's field staff will be looking for ergonomic hazards in their inspections and we will be providing them with the support and back-up they need to enforce under the general duty clause. In addition, we will be examining employer logs to see if MSDs are accurately reported.
2:21 Comment From Cindy: With the additional 110 compliance officers added in 2010, how many more workplaces does the agency believe they'll visit/impact?
2:21 Rich Fairfax: Thanks for the question, Cindy. For FY 2010, we are planning to conduct over 40,000 inspections. We are in the process of hiring 110 new compliance officers, these compliance officers will take one to two years of training and mentoring before they can conduct inspections on their own. Consequently, inspection numbers from these additional compliance officers will impact inspection numbers in 2011 and 2012.
2:21 Comment From Guest: The VPP program effectively creates a living example of what successful compliance and employee engagement looks like, it has a long track record of success in both union and non union sites and effectively creates the opportunity for employers, employees and OSHA to openly discuss and work on safety & health improvement. It appears that the current administration is not supporting this program which is one of the most effective cooperative programs that any agency has put together, by starving the program's funding. The strategic plan needs to support and nurture this important and successful program rather than quietly bury the program
2:21 Steve Witt: Thanks. The Agency appreciates the value of the VPP program. The companies that have been recognized for the VPP are models for those wishing to focus on the safety and health of their workers. Unfortunately due to budget constraints the Agency is considering alternative funding means to continue support the VPP.
2:22 Moderator: Here is a picture of Dr. Michaels answering questions during the chat.
2:24 Comment From Stakeholder: The plan outlines an intent to measure results differently. What are some of the ways you'll be doing that, including the "new measures for agency-funded activities and programs?"
2:24 Comment From Anonymous: In the future will OSHA look to measure the effectiveness of its' Alliance Program participants when determing which Alliances to renew? And, if so, how will these participants be evaluated?
2:24 Jordan Barab: Thank you for your question. Part of this process is seeking stakeholder input. This is a very good question, and we are in the process of evaluating our measures for inclusion into the strategic plan. Please let us know if you have any suggestions.
2:24 Steve Witt: Thank you. OSHA considers several criteria before entering into or renewing existing alliances. The Agency doesn't move forward before it is convinced that the alliance will produce results both for workers and the agency.
2:26 Comment From Julian Arcila: Good Afernoon. I´d like to ask if this new plan contamplates something related to the Hispanic Construction community, one of the most affected by work-related illnesses
2:26 David Michaels: Thanks Julian, the plan is written at a more universal level. To achieve our goals, we will clearly need to continue our current focus on both construction workers and Spanish speaking workers, and many of our activities and materials will directly address these groups. Most notably, construction is the major focus of the Latino Worker Summit to be held in Houston next week.
2:26 Comment From Bruce: How will the agency measure its ability to improve Health & Safety in the US workplace. Measuring inspections, violations and fines don't necessarily reflect improved safety & health and could incent region and area offices to simply focus on issuing citations vs improved streamlined standards, education, collaboration with worksites, coaching etc...
2:26 Rich Fairfax: Very good question, Bruce, this is something we struggle with all the time. For our current strat plan, we are focusing on reducing fatalities, removing workers from harm, and focusing on reducing exposure to health hazards, including noise. The measure we have used in the past was reduction in injury and illness rates, the literature and a GAO report have called this into question so we launched a NEP on recording of injury and illness rates. We hope to evaluate this and possibly adjust our ways we measure success.
2:26 Comment From Anonymous: What is the status of Federal OSHA's review of the State Plans and when will that report(s) become available?
2:26 Steve Witt: The enhanced evaluations of the state plans are currently being conducted by the OSHA regions. The draft reports are to be completed by April 30. Since a considerable amount of work is necessary, some extensions to this date may be granted.
2:28 Dorothy Doughtery : Our goal is to issue the rule in time to implement the new requirements on January 1, 2011, when the next annual reporting cycle would begin. The comment period, which was initially scheduled to close on March 15, 2010, was extended to March 30, 2010, in order to provide stakeholders with additional time to submit their comments. OSHA is currently reviewing the comments and has begun work on drafting the rule.
2:28 Comment From Guest: When is the final rule on the addition of a musculoskeletal disorder column to the OSHA log anticipated?
2:28 Comment From Dale: Are there plans to further increase, improve, and/or standardize OSHA inspector training (so that the contesting of "improper" or very minor issues, especially associated with higher penalties) do not waste so much of OSHA's and businesses time?
2:28 Rich Fairfax: Excellent question, Dale. We are in the process of doing that as I type this. We put together a task group to evaluate our entire CSHO training program, and we are in the process of implementing all the recommendations. This includes an extensive, multi-year, developmental program for all new compliance officers.
2:29 Comment From Achieng: First of all thank you for this opportunity to raise a comment or two. This is a very strong and much-needed plan. I was gratified to see that one of the objectives in the plan was to "ensure voice in the workplace". This is very important for whistleblowers who complain to OSHA about retaliation for exercising thier rights. However I may have overlooked it but I did not see anything spelling out anti-retaliation measures in the plan, although I'm sure that this is included and it goes without saying. Can you please touch on how you view this part of the OSHA program. Thank you.
2:29 Jordan Barab: Thank you very much for your support. This is an exciting opportunity for OSHA and workers and other stakeholders. OSHA doesn't work unless workers feel secure in exercising their rights. Addressing the challenges we are facing in our whistleblower program is a top priority and we are looking at ways to make this program more effective. We are also supporting the Protecting America's Workers Act, which will significantly improve whistleblower protections.
2:29 Comment From Guest: What obstacles are there currently to making NEP results more immediately available online (as an earlier question/comment suggested)?
2:30 Tom Galassi: Thanks for your question Guest. In terms of implementation, we would expect a number of issues, such as ensuring data integrity, IT capabilities, and proper period of reporting. As we stated earlier, our goal is to provide information that has value to employer's safety and health management programs.
2:30 Comment From Guest: With an increase in focus on IH inspections, does this mean that health standards will receive more focus. Particularly Diacetyl, Silica. ?
2:30 Rich Fairfax: I appreciate the question. The short answer is absolutely. We intend to focus on all of our health standards, air contaminant PELS, and noise.
2:30 Comment From Anonymous: Shouldnt compliance assistance be at the top of the list in the strategic plan, before enforcement activities, because realistically OSHA will not reach all the small business that fall under its' jurisdiction. Through education and training programs through the cooperative programs, OSHA can reach more employers through those programs, than enforcement.
2:30 Jordan Barab: Thanks Anonymous, we are committed to putting more emphasis and resource into enforcement to focus on businesses that continue to violate the law, but let me assure you one of our top priorities is effective compliance assistance and we are committed to getting information to worker and employers especially small businesses. In fact, this year’s budget includes a $1,000,000 increase for the State Consultation Program -- a free on-site compliance assistance program.
2:30 Comment From Dale: Thank you for this forum. The outreach is appreciated (no response required).
2:31 Comment From Megan Raines, CSP: Will the number of compliance officers in state plan states also be increasing?
2:31 Jordan Barab: Megan, thanks. The state plans have responsibility for the allocation of resources in their individual states. The dedication of resources for specific programs is within the perview of the state plan designee.
2:31 David Michaels : Great question Kristina, recently a large construction contractor informed OSHA of a policy at one of their sites (not their policy, the policy of the company they were working for) that involves suspending workers who were injured no matter what the cause. OSHA called the company and made it clear we disapprove of policies like this. I encourage our stakeholders to let us know of the existence of policies that discourage accurate injury reporting.
2:32 Comment From Kristina: Following up on Dr. Michaels' mention of the Business Week article, can you give a few specific examples of what might be done to discourage under- and non-reporting of injuries? And are there a
2:32 Comment From Betty Hintch: Do you have any specific plans on how to reach vulnerable and hard-to-reach employees to ensure they understand their workplace safety rights?
2:32 Jordan Barab: Thanks Betty, we are forging new and effective partnerships with community organizations, the faith community, consulates, and others to enhance workers ability to exercise their rights. The Latino Summit is an example of this effort.
2:34 Comment From Jon: If there isn't a clear standard to apply related to ergonomics then isn’t enforcement an overreaching use of the general duty clause? Additionally then how does an employer comply if enforcement is left to the discretion of the inspector?
2:34 Tom Galassi: Thank you for your question Jon. Enforcement is not left to the discretion of the inspector. In order to document a general duty clause violation for ergonomics, among other things, the agency would have to demonstrate industry recognition and feasible ways to abate the hazard.
2:34 David Michaels: Thank you for taking the time to participate in today's Web chat on OSHA’s strategic plan. We look forward to your continued comments as we move forward through the strategic planning process. Your input is important to us as we develop and refine our goals, measurements and outcomes to move us toward healthier and safer workplaces in this country. If you would like to comment on the Department of Labor's strategic plan development, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your comments are related to OSHA’s part of the plan, please include “OSHA” in the subject line of your email. A final draft of the plan will be posted on the DOL strategic plan page for review and comment in July 2010. We are committed to hearing as many voices as possible in putting together OSHA's strategic plan for 2010-2016. Thank you for your time today.