OSHA direction shifting swiftly

By Lindsey Anderson22 July 2009

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will receive a 10 percent budget increase for the fiscal 2010 year, said Steven Witt, United States Department of Labor - OSHA, director of Cooperative and State Programs, while speaking at the 2009 Scaffold Industry Association's Annual Conference and Exposition in San Francisco, CA.

Since the Obama Administration has taken term, the direction of OSHA will shift swiftly over the course of the next few years, with the most major change being the $50.6 million in additional funding, which, Witt said, will be used to hire roughly 200 more employees.

OSHA also recently appointed Hilda Solis as the new Secretary of Labor, who insists on expanding the compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) workforce with the additional funding. Solis also aims to increase the number of bilingual CSHOs to improve diversity.

Witt, speaking about "the new OSHA," said it will act more swiftly than ever before in regard to safety, citing the creation of the new Severe Violators Inspection Program. The program is geared toward monitoring and addressing companies that repeatedly violate safety laws.

In Texas, for example, more workers die on the job than in any other state. In 2008, there were 67 fatalities and in 2009, there have already been 33. In response to this, Solis visited the American Society of Safety Engineers in San Antonio in June and announced that in July, OSHA increased the number of inspectors in Texas. Solis said the inspectors will focus on and observe unsafe scaffold, fall risks and other hazards.

"OSHA will be about workers," Witt said. "There's a new sheriff in town."

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