“What does Obama’s Win Mean for Workplace Health and Safety?”

An interesting article entitled “What does Obama’s Win Mean for Workplace Health and Safety?” has been posted on the Environmental Health & Safety Today website. Some interesting points from the article:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Warren K. Brown applauded the election results: “We fully support President-Elect Obama in saying that this is not the time to ‘fall back on the same partisanship,’ which, as in other issues facing this nation, has marked the occupational safety and health debate in recent years,” he said in a statement. “We are greatly hopeful that, with his leadership, creative and meaningful ways to confront long-standing occupational safety and health issues can be achieved through solutions that encourage the entire safety and health community to work together to achieve safer and healthier workplaces across the nation.”

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney also was optimistic about Obama’s election: “Two years ago, voters began voicing real dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq; this year, a financial tsunami stirred record levels of frustration. It took the inspiration of a rare leader to translate these concerns into an election the likes of which have not been seen in a generation,” he said. “Barack Obama brings new hope to America’s working families, and our increased majority in the Senate means we can translate that hope into reality.”

Aaron Trippler, director of government affairs for the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), told EHSToday.com that while he was confident that Obama’s election signifies change, he doesn’t expect to see immediate results in the occupational safety arena.

“I don’t think you’re going to see as much activity in Congress on this issue as you might think,” he said of workplace health and safety. “That’s because I think they have other priorities.”

Instead, Trippler predicted, Congress may leave these issues to OSHA, which is “where the action is going to have to take place.” But since OSHA likely will not have a new administrator until late summer of 2009 at the earliest, it may take until 2010 to address some of these workplace safety issues. Those issues, he believes, will include ergonomics, as well as diacetyl, combustible dust and silica.

“I think if we had our choice of sitting down and saying, ‘These are things that need to be done,’ the overall thing we need to fix is the process at OSHA,” Trippler concluded.

posted 11/29/08

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