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Worker Safety: OSHA Administrator Calls For More Federal Collaboration

by Jeff Johnson
May 10, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 19

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration will increasingly join forces with other federal agencies to enforce worker safety regulations, said OSHA Administrator David Michaels at a May 4 conference of the BlueGreen Alliance, an organization of union members and environmental activists.

Michaels described a recent increase in on-the-job deaths of industrial workers, saying they were “all based in part on the energy we use or the raw material we extract to make the building blocks of our carbon-based economy.” Some 58 workers have died over the past three months in accidents at refineries, coal mines, an oil drilling rig, and a natural-gas-fired power plant construction site, according to the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board and OSHA.

The Obama Administration is making a “big push” to form federal teams to address large issues, including worker safety and training, Michaels said. For example, during a recent OSHA inspection of a BP training center, Michaels was joined by top officials of the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

That visit, he noted, was part of OSHA’s program to beef up refinery inspections after BP’s Texas City, Texas, 2005 refinery accident that killed 15 workers. Michaels predicted more collaborations, particularly with EPA.

Paul T. Anastas, head of EPA’s Office of Research & Development, who also spoke at the conference, acknowledged that EPA had been meeting with OSHA to “explore strategies to combine work.” But, he added, “it is not clear at this time where we will wind up.”


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