The new face of OSHA, Jim Frederick, used to be a union official and Labor Secretary nominee Marty Walsh was known to be pro-union in his time as mayor of Boston. Therefore “the AFL-CIO wish list carries some weight,” said workplace safety attorney Adele Abrams.
Abrams explored the union’s list of biggest occupational health and safety issues during a Premier Learning Solutions webinar “Safety Polices in 2021: How the New Administration Impacts Employers Now.”
In honor of OSHA’s 50th anniversary in December 2020, the AFL-CIO looks like it’s gearing up to partner with the agency to revive, retool or reboot:
- the Voluntary Protection Program
- National Emphasis Programs
- the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, and
- the Site-Specific Targeting Program.
“There’s lots of old things that can be made new again, as well as new directions that they could take,” Abrams said.
What’s on the list?
The AFL-CIO’s top wants from the new administration:
- Prioritize infectious disease prevention, heat exposure (in the last year OSHA lost two General Duty enforcement cases dealing with heat exposure) and workplace violence legislation
- Update the Permissible Exposure Limit levels for chemicals, with more input from labor groups
- Reinvigorate OSHA committees, such as the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health and the Maritime Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health
- Realign federal OSHA with state OSHA agencies whose regs to protect workers are more up to date/stringent, and
- Come up with worker protections (COVID-related and otherwise) across state and jurisdictional lines (e.g., OSHA vs. MSHA) that are more uniform, particularly when third parties are involved.
It remains to be seen how much of this will get done in the next four years, but we’ll keep you posted.
NCOSH’s agenda for OSHA
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH) has come up with a plan to “rebuild OSHA” because, according to Abrams, the agency was “stalled” under the Trump administration and had no top administrator. It has the endorsement of more than 100 labor and community-based organizations.
It calls for:
- a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard with strong enforcement behind it
- strengthening safety laws and regulations overall, supported by enforcement
- preventing chemical incidents and harmful exposure
- confronting the workplace effects of climate change
- more freedom for workers to speak up about safety concerns, and
- workplace safety that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion.