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Pandemic Preparedness Experts

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COVID Safe Workplaces

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Highlighting Safety at OSHA

The President's nomination of David Michaels to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) underscores the Administration's desire to emphasize the need for safety in the workplace. Michaels, author of the book, "Workers at Risk," recognized that safety is a shared responsibility between Labor and Industry.

In a recent discussion on National Public Radio's program "Living on Earth," a "New Approach to Workplace Dangers" was discussed. "President Obama recently announced the nomination of David Michaels to head up the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Michaels, a public health professional, has been an outspoken critic of polluting industries, accusing them of manufacturing uncertainty so as to undermine the science behind regulation. Host Jeff Young talks to Sidney Shapiro, a Wake Forest Law Professor and OSHA expert, about this nomination."

Michael's has indicated that a change of culture is called for. "What polluters have seen is that the strategy that the tobacco industry came up with, which essentially is questioning the science, find the controversy and magnify that controversy, is very successful in slowing down public health protections. And so the scientists who used to work for the tobacco industry are now working for most major chemical companies. They don't have to show a chemical exposure is safe. All they have to do is show that the other studies are in question somehow. And by raising that level of uncertainty, they throw essentially a monkey wrench into the system."

The agency will next have to be given the necessary tools to permit the culture of safety to flourish. OSHA must become proactive about safety. Congress will now have to act to implement new laws to strengthen OSHA's mission of safety.

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