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Former OSHA head testifies in favor of traditional regulation

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, former Occupational Safety and Health Administration head David Michaels outlined his belief on why voluntary compliance programs don’t have the same results as standard enforcement measures. According to Michaels, compliance assistance programs are useful for companies that are proactively seeking to protect their employees from hazardous working conditions, but the result is no substitute for vigorous, fair regulation enforcement.

Michaels’ testimony primarily focused on the ineffectiveness of voluntary OSHA efforts including Voluntary Protection Programs, or VPP. It was his testimony that VPP was designed to recognize the best employers in an industry but ultimately wasted OSHA resources and lacked focus.

The primary point of the former OSHA head’s testimony was that programs like VPP had not provided any decrease in workplace injuries. This lack of decrease is due to the companies involved already have a strong track record on workplace safety and have been willing to allocate resources to implement strong safety and health programs. It is this strong track record that highlights Michaels’ primary issue with voluntary programs. Every dollar OSHA allocates to VPP is a dollar that could be spent on small, less compliant companies in industries that have not historically self-regulated well. It is his position that the money would be better spent on enforcing regulations on higher-risk companies than on companies that already regulate themselves adequately.

The standards put forth by OSHA are intended to limit hazardous working conditions and the injuries that come with them. Any individual who is injured at work may be eligible for a claim through their state’s workers compensation system. These claims might include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An attorney with experience in workers compensation law may be able to help an individual navigate the workers compensation claim system. In a situation where an employer is unwilling to accept responsibility, an attorney may be able to assist that individual in pursuing their claim in court.