In December, the Senate confirmed David Michaels, a research professor at George Washington University, to head the agency. Michaels, who is a believer in metrics measurement and the creation of an enforceable ergonomics standard, is expected to strongly push for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in all workplaces. With a 10 percent increase in OSHA's budget for the coming year, including the addition of 210 personnel, inspecting injury logs and penalizing health and safety violators will be easier for the administration to accomplish.
Cindy Roth, CEO of Ergonomic Technologies Corp. in Syosset, N.Y., warned attendees at the 18th Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ & Expo in Chicago that all companies need to be concerned about safety because "there's a new sheriff in town." With the pro-labor and pro-enforcement positions of Michaels and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Roth said companies should expect to encounter a "strong, enforceable OSHA -- something we haven't had in the past eight years."
In addition to Michaels' confirmation, OSHA officials released the agency's upcoming regulatory agenda. Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary for OSHA, said the agency will issue a proposed rule in January to revise its regulation on recordkeeping to restore a column on the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Log that would require employers to separately list work-related MSDs from other conditions. The MSD column was removed from the log in 2003.
Although Barab strongly emphasized that the move was not the first step toward resurrecting a national ergonomics standard, Roth felt otherwise. She said that by specifically tracking MSDs, it may signal that the agency is collecting data to provide a cost justification for such a standard.
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January 21, 2010
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