OSHA Obama-gram

By: November 7th, 2008 Email This Post Print This Post

Although it was not a hot campaign item by either party, in the wake of the presidential election, lots of safety experts and OSHA watchers have speculated as to what the Obama administration will mean to OSHA.

Conventional wisdom says that OSHA is more active under a Democrat administration. As critics of the current administration like to point out, fewer OSHA standards have been promulgated under President Bush than any of his predecessors since the OSHA Act became law in 1970. In case you forgot, that was under President Nixon.

Most of the prognosticators point to more energetic enforcement—meaning more inspections, higher fines, maybe even criminal penalties for egregious violations—the approval of new standards, additional funding for training, and the resurrection of the ergonomic standard, albeit in a different form.

Just for fun, imagine you have a direct line to the President-elect’s ear. What OSHA changes would you suggest specific to healthcare?

Here is one that I have been following from the Small Business Regulatory Review and Reform Initiative (r3). The Update OSHA’s Medical / Laboratory Worker Rule calls for a “tiered” approach to enforcing the bloodborne pathogens (BBP) standard. Adherence to the standard would be based “on the amount of blood and bodily fluids present at the facility.” The critical thinking behind this r3 proposal is that the current standard is more relevant to large facilities and BBP flexibility would relieve small facilities and practices of some unnecessary compliance burdens.

So, here is your chance to let, if not President-elect Obama, at least your safety and compliance colleagues know what changes you would like to see in OSHA. Who knows what is possible through the blogosphere. As you have no doubt heard recently: “Yes we can.”

Comments

Under Presdient Obama, OSHA should enact an airborne disease protection standard for healthcare workers, to provide minimum requirements for disease such as Tb, SARS and flu.

By Cindy Rolth on November 23rd, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Based on the current financial crisis, it is imperative for companies to change the way they are currently doing business in order to survive. Safety and ergonomics programs are “proven” with metrics to save workers’ comp costs, reduce lost worktime costs and can save lives, chronic disability to employees and millions of dollars for employers

By Bill Kincaid on December 5th, 2008 at 11:58 am

Yes, G.W. Bush allowed the OSHA budget to decline; did not issue many new standards, and even personally repealed a significant-yet-controversial regulation, something no President has ever done. But is a Republican President likely to be less of an enforcer than a Democrat?

Judging by the last twenty years, (during some of which I was an OSHA compliance officer and worked for both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton), I believe one should be wary of guessing how the President will exercise the enforcement powers of OSHA.

Based on the numbers of inspections, the numbers of violations per inspection, the percentage of serious violations and the penalties per inspection, George W. Bush is a substantially more enthusiastic OSHA enforcer than Bill Clinton; and Bill Clinton was a less aggressive enforcer than his predecessor George H.W. Bush.

Proof: There were 11% more inspections in FY2008 than in FY1998. Total violations have grown by 13% since FY1998. The percentage of serious violations increased from 65% in FY1998 to 77% in FY2008, an overall increase of 16% over ten years. Penalties collected per serious violation rose about 15% in that period.

Rumors and accusations as to the demise of the old enforcement-centered OSHA appear to be false. Looking at the Federal government’s own data, it’s pretty clear. Bush’s OSHA has been out there enforcing regulations, just like the previous administration’s OSHA, but significantly more aggressively.

What will happen during the next four years remains to be seen. One conclusion about how OSHA will exercise its duties in the future is already obvious: the best way to know the way OSHA is currently operating is to ignore the rumors, opinions and speculations; and take a good look at the numbers.

(Not to defend Bush, whom, I think, in many ways did much lasting damage to our country in his two terms – I am just defending the facts)

>> Based on the current financial crisis, it is imperative for companies to change the way they are currently doing business in order to survive. Safety and ergonomics programs are “proven” with metrics to save workers’ comp costs, reduce lost worktime costs and can save lives, chronic disability to employees and millions of dollars for employers <<

Given that employers have economic incentives to save money by having strong safety and ergonomics programs, additional enforcement efforts and new regulations would not be needed. No?

By Millie Pataki on April 16th, 2009 at 12:07 pm

I think it is appalling that anyone would want to change the ruling on BLOODBORNE Pathogens based on the amount of blood or bodily fluids the medical facility comes in to contact with. Maybe they should ask the employees who contracted HIV or one of the deadly Hepatitis viruses from a tiny needle stick and see how they feel about it.

By David LaHoda on April 16th, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I have to agree with you. Similar to the old saying about being a little pregnant, you can’t be a little bit exposed to bloodborne pathogens. From an OSHA perspective, you either are or are not.

 

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