Kentucky workers wishing for safer workplaces may be interested in learning about the testimony a former OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) head recently gave before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, which concerned the manner in which the nation’s premier workplace safety watchdog ensures regulatory compliance. David Michaels was the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health from 2009 until 2017.
Michaels, who is now a university professor, was asked to testify before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections regarding the effectiveness of OSHA’s Volunteer Protection Programs (VPP), which allow some employers with exceptional safety and compliance histories to self-monitor their workplace safety protocols and regulatory compliance. According to Michaels, the VPP enrollment procedure calls for an outsized manpower commitment as eligible employers must be vetted with wall-to-wall inspections prior to being allowed to self-monitor. Since the self-monitoring program, which was initially implemented in 2002, is only available to employers with already exceptional safety records, Michaels believes the manpower dedicated to pre-enrollment inspections could be better used on monitoring facilities with more checkered safety records. Michaels further testified that budget restrictions required his team to focus on the re-certification of existing VPP facilities rather than expansion of the program, which limited its implementation.
The key to efficient use of agency resources, according to Michaels, is a robust and fair enforcement program. While the VPP is focused on individual employers, widespread enforcement is more broadly focused on industrial compliance that impacts multiple employers at a time. He stressed that the majority of employers want to maintain safe workplaces but that some of them require stronger oversight from OSHA than others, which is more easily accomplished outside the VPP framework.
Unsafe workplaces are a threat to employees and increase the risk of work-related injuries and occupational disease. People who are injured on the job or exposed to toxic work environments may benefit from speaking with an experienced injury lawyer. Confidential consultations can provide someone with confidence and direction when dealing with occupational safety issues.