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OSHA at a Crossroads

January 2 2007

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has some thinking to do. With close to 65% of the agency’s staff either eligible for retirement or nearing that point in time, now is the time for OSHA to decide what the future holds.

Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for occupational safety and health, addressed this issue while speaking at the International Safety Equipment Association’s 2006 fall meeting. Citing budget restrictions as the source of this personnel issue, Foulke said that the agency has been unable to move forward. Since 2001, OSHA has lost funding for over 200 positions, Foulke remarked that the agency cannot achieve its mission of enforcement and assistance if it continues to lose budget.

To help employers maintain safe workplaces, Foulke said he still believes in compliance assistance and cooperative programs, and added that OSHA will carry on with its strong enforcement program. Foulke commented that while some employers look at OSHA citations as a “cost of doing business”, the agency will not wait for a fatality to take action with these employers.

Foulke stressed the importance of prevention in the workplace. One such program that The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) has been committed to is the OSHA Challenge Program, of which TAUC is not only a charter member but also an administrator. This program acts as a catalyst for companies who aspire to reach Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) status. Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health. Presently, two members of TAUC are actively involved with the Challenge Program.

By reducing injuries and illnesses, workers’ compensation rates can be reduced and companies can be more profitable and competitive. TAUC is dedicated to ensuring that its members are provided with up to date information in regard to safety and health issues so that they can remain in the top percentile of contractors in the industry.

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