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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Goal 2: Ensure Workplaces Are Safe and Healthy

Date: Tuesday, August 6 at 2 p.m. EDT

Participating agencies:

  • Mine Safety and Health Administration
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration

How to Participate

  • Enter your question directly into the live chat window found on the interactive page.

1:42 Moderator: The chat will being at 2:00. You can start submitting your questions now. There are no audio or visual components to today’s webchat.

2:00 Moderator: On behalf of the Department, the Performance Management Center and the Office of Public Affairs welcome you to the FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan Stakeholder Webchat for Strategic Goal 2 – Ensure workplace are safe and healthy.

The Strategic Objective associated with this Goal is to secure safe and healthy workplaces, particularly in high-risk industries. Each year, thousands of workers are killed and millions are injured on the job due to unsafe working conditions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are prioritizing their activities and strategies; emphasizing those efforts most likely to help us achieve our Strategic Goal and Objective – which are central to the Department’s mission to ensure access to opportunity for all.

This is your opportunity to influence our strategies and the implementation of our priorities and we thank you for your participation. Today, we want to:

• Collect your feedback on DOL’s proposed strategies to ensure workplaces are safe and healthy and listen to your ideas on implementing our priorities.
• Consider your views and concerns as we prepare the Strategic Plan.

We are joined by Assistant Secretary David Michaels from OSHA and Assistant Secretary Joe Main and Senior Policy Advisor Doug Parker from MSHA.

As a reminder, there are no audio or visual components to today’s webchat.

2:05 Comment From Mary Gonzalez: MG ...Houston Tx.... whats your stance on to ensure workers safety in refineries?

2:05 David Michaels -OSHA: Mary, thanks for your question. President Obama’s Executive Order on chemical plant safety and security calls on OSHA to begin the process of modernizing our Process Safety Management Standard. We believe this will improve refinery worker safety and decrease the likelihood of catastrophic event at a refinery.

2:06 Comment From Guest: Will MSHA continue to conduct targeted impact inspections?

2:06 Guest: MSHA will continue its Targeted Impact Inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine. These inspections target mines with specific conditions, problems or compliance issues that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns, including high numbers of violations or closure orders; indications of operator tactics, such as advance notification of inspections that prevent inspectors from observing violations; frequent hazard complaints or hotline calls; plan compliance issues; inadequate workplace examinations; high numbers of accidents, injuries or illnesses; fatalities; and adverse conditions such as increased methane liberation, faulty roof conditions and inadequate ventilation and respirable dust.

2:07 Comment From Tammy Miser: Families across the United States are left in the dark after the OSHA/MSHA inspection. We (USMWF) would like to know if you will you develop and implement a national policy for SOL staff on communicating with family members of workplace fatality victims as part of your strategic plan? The policy should complement the one implemented by federal OSHA and acknowledge that in contested cases, SOL staff (not OSHA staff) have first-hand knowledge about the status of a case.

2:07 Joseph Main: Upon my arrival as Assistant Secretary at MSHA, I signed a new policy for an MSHA liaison to be attached to miners’ families each time a mining fatality occurs. Their role is to provide families with updates of information that can be shared as we proceed with the investigation into the tragedy and concludes with the family receiving the investigation report before releasing it to the public. This gives the families the opportunity to ask questions, including legal questions that would be forwarded to the Solicitor of Labor during this process. We believe the families are owed this courtesy when a mining tragedy occurs.

2:09 Comment From Debi Fergen: As a part of your strategic plan to Ensure Workplaces Are Safe and Healthy, will you work with Asst. Secretary of Labor David Michaels to revise OSHA's policies related to proposed penalty amounts for fatality cases? Specifically, will the Labor Department adopt a policy comparable to the one adopted by Virginia OSHA? This State Plan's policy reads: “No penalty reduction factors may be applied to any violation which has directly contributed to a fatality. Such a violation shall be penalized at $7,000 for each serious and $70,000 for each willful and repeat.

2:09 David Michaels -OSHA: Thanks for your question, Deb. We are looking at this very question now. Under the OSHA law, we must consider employer size in determining the size of the penalty. But we are working to ensure that the appropriate level of penalty is chosen, especially in situations where a worker has been killed.

2:16 Comment From Guest: To what extent is OSHA considering examining its enforcement strategies and priorities to account for the fissuring of employment? I’m thinking of the fragmentation of enterprises through subcontracting and use of labor contractors and temporary employment services primarily. But also ways in which enterprises themselves appear disaggregated, such as restaurant “mini-empires” in which a single employer owns multiple restaurants in a city but establishes each as an individual LLC, thus looking on paper like a set of distinct small employers instead of the reality of a single employer with a larger number of employees. Could fissuring obscure OSHA’s ability to identify targets under SST, for example?

2:16 David Michaels -OSHA: You have raised a very important question, and we are working closely with the Wage and Hour Division as well as others in the Labor Department to better understand the atomization of the workplace. Our current primary focus is on temporary workers. We have received reports in recent months of temporary workers killed or seriously injured during their first days on a new job. We are currently clarifying our policies on the responsibilities of host employers and staffing agencies. We are working closely with the American Staffing Association to get information to their members and we have put in place a system to gather more information about the specific hazards faced by temporary workers. As we learn more, we will shape our policies and programs accordingly

2:17 Comment From Guest: Will MSHA be placing special emphasis on health inspections?

2:17 Joe Main: Over the last few years MSHA has been and will continue to do so. In late 2009, we launched the “End Black Lung –Act Now” campaign to protect miners from this disease caused by breathing in unhealthy coal mine dust. Through FY2012, we were able to lower unhealthy underground coal mine dust levels by 14%, to the lowest levels ever recorded in mining history. We are increasing attention on exhaust from diesel engines used in underground coal and metal and non-metal mines. Data shows that we have had success in lowering the diesel particulate levels at metal and non-metal mines; however, more needs to be done. Last year we launched our (5002) initiative aimed at protecting miners at metal and non-metal mines from unhealthy fumes, mists and gasses. We will be continuing the program. These will be among the special emphases we continue to place on health.

2:21 Comment From Christopher Cole: The question of "regulatory capture" with respect to reasons the silica proposed rule has not been issued came up at a Senate hearing last week. Could you please respond?

2:21 David Michaels -OSHA: We expect to be proposing the silica rule in the near future. We look forward to the comments of all of our impacted stakeholders. I don’t know how “regulatory capture” was raised at this hearing, so I can’t specifically respond. I believe our proposed rule will be seen as one that protects workers from a deadly hazard while providing employers with an enhanced level of flexibility.

2:23 Comment From Christopher Cole: Do you have any insight as to the next steps in the I2P2 rulemaking, with SBREFA apparently still delayed? Thanks

2:23 Comment From Stephen Lee, Bloomberg BNA: When can we expect the small business review to begin on the I2P2 rulemaking?

2:23 David Michaels: We cannot predict the exact date when we will initiate SBREFA. However, it should be soon.

2:25 Comment From Eric Frumin, Change to Win: How do OSHA and MSHA plan to further sharpen and improve their current efforts to focus enforcement actions on employers with histories of serious violations? In particular, has the on-going evaluation effort described in the current Strategic Plan offered any insights about the directions of such changes and improvements?

2:26 J. Main and D. Michaels: MSHA will continue its Targeted Impact Inspections, which began in force in April 2010 following the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine. These inspections target mines with specific conditions, problems or compliance issues that merit increased agency attention and enforcement due to their poor compliance history or particular compliance concerns, including high numbers of violations or closure orders; indications of operator tactics, such as advance notification of inspections that prevent inspectors from observing violations; inadequate ventilation and respirable dust. We continue to refine and improve our tactics based on lessons learned from conducting these inspections.
A major achievement under the current strategic plan has been the implementation of MSHA’s final rule on Pattern of Violation. MSHA is using the same criteria to identify mines for a pattern of violations under its new regulation as it did under the Potential Pattern of Violations rule. The new rule encourages operators to take responsibility for avoiding a Pattern of Violations through MSHA’s online monitoring tool and through the expansion of the use of Corrective Action Programs by operators to address specific compliance issues that are putting them at risk of a POV notice.
MSHA is continuously evaluating and improving our strategies to address chronic violators, improve compliance and reduce accidents and injuries. Our strategies appear to be working with reduced violations, and record-low fatalities and injury rates.

OSHA will continue its Severe Violator Enforcement Program that focuses enforcement efforts on significant hazards and violations by concentrating inspection resources on employers who have demonstrated recalcitrance or indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act obligations by committing willful violations, repeated violations, or failure to abate violations.
In addition, OSHA has an on-going evaluation of its sites-specific targeting, a program which is focused on workplaces with highest injury and illness rates. The results of this evaluation will assist OSHA in targeting enforcement actions to the hazardous workplaces, many of which are repeat violators. In our SST program, we are often returning to the same high-risk workplaces.
OSHA is continuing to evaluate all its enforcement efforts to assure that we are focusing our limited resources to the most high-risk workplaces.

2:26 Comment From Eric Frumin, Change to Win: How will OSHA's collection of information directly from employers assist its enforcement targeting, not only by worksite but also by types of hazards across high-risk industry sectors and worker populations?

2:26 David Michaels -OSHA: Earlier this week OSHA announced that starting next year federal agencies will send information about each reportable injury to OSHA and BLS. This will enable OSHA to better target our compliance assistance and enforcement activities, and will help agencies better understand and therefore prevent injuries from occurring. We think this approach will help reduce injury rates, and hopefully we will be able to apply this approach in the private sector as well in the future.

2:28 Comment From Christopher Cole: Could you please offer some details about plans for the future of the SVEP enforcement program?

2:28 David Michaels: OSHA will continue with its SVEP program which focuses enforcement efforts on significant hazards and violations by concentrating inspection resources on employers who have demonstrated recalcitrance or indifference to their Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act obligations by committing willful violations, repeated violations, or failure to abate violations.

2:30 Comment From Guest: Is OSHA considering looking beyond data derived from employer-created illness and injury logs when exercising its authority to select an enforcement target in accordance with “a general administrative plan for … enforcement … derived from neutral sources”? Are there any other “neutral sources” OSHA could be using, such as data from other agencies (like Wage & Hour or EPA) or research about the incidence and prevalence of occupational illnesses? I’m wondering in particular if the current approach leaves OSHA not exercising its broadest enforcement authority to prevent occupational illness, which must surely be inadequately represented in employer logs.

2:30 David Michaels -OSHA: OSHA is committed to expanding the sources of data we use to identify workplaces which should be inspected. Following President Obama’s Executive Order on chemical plant safety and security, we are now developing a system to share data with EPA and Department of Homeland Security on facilities where hazardous chemicals or processes may be present.

2:36 Comment From Guest: What can be done to expedite or streamline the rulemaking process so rules will come out in my lifetime? Many have suggested using negotiated rulemaking, but that didn't seem to move the process along any faster.

2:36 David Michaels -OSHA: We share your concern about this slowness of rulemaking and agree with your observation that negotiated rulemaking does not appear to result in rules that are issued more quickly. OSHA will soon be issuing a Request for Information addressing the process for issuing standards on chemical exposures and we hope that by engaging our stakeholders, some new approaches can be developed.

2:40 Comment From Guest: Because of the structure of OSHA and MSHA most employers are focused on compliance. Yet many standards are outdated and compliance won't ensure a safe workplace. How can we get employers focused on safety and not just compliance?

2:40 D. Michaels and J. Main: At OSHA, One of my main objectives is to educate our country’s employers about moving beyond reactive compliance o embrace a culture of safety. Many workplaces already have injury and illness prevention programs, where employers implement a process to find and fix workplace hazards before workers are hurt.

Our injury and illness prevention program initiative remains my number one priority – for these programs are critical to driving down injury and fatality rates.

We must also continue to address the problem of those systems that undermine a workplace culture of safety. For example, some incentive programs based on injury or illness reports or rates can discourage workers from reporting injuries. Programs like these ultimately discourage workers from reporting injuries because they do not want to be perceived as “ruining it” for everyone else. We have also seen programs that punish workers for reporting injuries by disciplining workers no matter what the circumstances surrounding the injury for invoking otherwise ignored safety rules. These programs can put workers at risk and can constitute a violation of OSHA’s rules.

We will continue to encourage employers to use their recordkeeping systems as a way to identify and fix workplace hazards, and we hope to make such efforts more effective by modernizing recordkeeping practices. One of the items on our regulatory agenda is a new way to think about tracking injuries and illnesses and moving recordkeeping into the digital age.

At MSHA, in addition to enforcement of the mandatory health and safety standards we are engaged in a number of education and outreach activities with our stakeholders and have developed a number of initiatives that complement the effectiveness of those mandatory standards. Some examples are: the Rules to Live By initiative that focuses attention of both the mining industry and our inspectors on the most common types of mining deaths and the particular standards associated with those. Another program is the End Black Lung – Act Now campaign that targets conditions that lead to the black lung disease at coal mines. Another initiative at metal and non-metal mines is attention on occupational health exposures where we place special emphasis on through our “5002 Campaign” to better protect miners from occupational illnesses caused by airborne contaminants. These are all initiatives that are implemented through the engagement of our stakeholders. We also constantly provide alerts to the mining industry on particular hazards such as recent ones on preventing mine roof falls and diesel particulates exposures. We provide quarterly updates to the entire mining community on all mining deaths that have occurred listing both the types of accidents and best practices to prevent those. And we are constantly updating our policy guidance to the mining industry to better implement our standards. A recent one was on fall protection where OSHA fall protection standards were considered as meeting MSHA standards.

2:44 Comment From Guest: MSHA has an important role for both workers and communities and the larger environment through regulation of slurry impoundments. MSHA identified the need for an update back in 1994, but the agency abruptly withdrew that work from its agenda back in 2001, along with a whole slew of action items. That withdrawal was ill-timed, coming right on the heels of the Martin County coal slurry disaster, which was devastating to the environment and affected water quality and health of community residents for quite some time. Will MSHA revisit slurry impoundment regulation?

2:44 Joe Main: MSHA has implemented final rules on rock dust, examination requirements for underground coal mines, and pattern of violations. MSHA currently has a broad, aggressive rule-making agenda that includes addressing miners’ exposure to respirable dust, proximity detection to protect miners working around continuous miners and other equipment. MSHA will also be responding to regulatory recommendations from the Upper Big Branch investigation and looking at refuge alternative issues. However, new rule-making on impoundments is not currently on our regulatory agenda. MSHA has focused on enforcing its current standards for impoundments by emphasizing inspections of high hazard impoundments and providing technical guidance to the industry.

2:46 Comment From Guest: Some OSHA State plans are very good while others are struggling. OSHA can criticise them and say they are "not as effective" but seems to have few tools to actually bring failing plans up to a higher level. What creative ideas do you have to make sure all workers, no matter what state they live in, have the same right to a safe workplace?

2:46 David Michaels -OSHA: You have raised an important concern. For the first time in 42 years, we have developed, jointly with the State Plans, a series of measures to determine effectiveness. This will enable us to better identify which aspect of a State Plan’s activity is not “at least as effective” as federal OSHA. This is a first step to better engage with the State Plans to improve performance.

2:52 Comment From Gail Bateson: When are the next FAME reports due out? To what extent will they focus on last year's evaluation of state plan retaliation programs? Will there be a new focus this year?

2:52 David Michaels -OSHA: The FY2012 FAME will be released to the public on the OSHA webpage on Friday August 16. These FAME reports will address the findings and recommendations from the FY2011 FAME including retaliation-related findings.

2:57 Comment From Elizabeth Govaerts: Stakeholder meetings have been held for a Combustible Dust Regulation since 2009. How close is OSHA to sending it to the OMB for review?

2:57 Comment From Guest: What steps are being taken to help protect the younger work force from injuries and fatalities as they are one of the higest at risk groups? Are you looking at implementing tougher guidelines, better training opportunities, additional school involvement with career and technical education, etc?

2:57 David Michaels -OSHA: OSHA continues to focus outreach and education to young workers to inform them of their rights in the workplace and to enhance their ability to use those rights. Through updated web-based materials, new publications, increased use of social media and new technologies, a continued effort for OSHA field staff to reach out to local high schools and our Harwood grants, we are working hard to protect young workers. OSHA also works with our ETA partners to provide health and safety training in their job training programs focused on young workers.

2:57 David Michaels - OSHA: OSHA is continuing to work on a Combustible Dust standard. The next step in the process is to hold a SBREFA forum, which will take place soon.

2:58 Moderator: Thank you for your participation. If you want to provide further feedback, please submit your ideas and comments to DOLstratplan@dol.gov.

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