Gore and the Democrats: Pursuing Labor's Agenda?

AFL-CIO's Department of Occupational Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario talks about what changes she would like to see at OSHA if Gore wins the White\r\nHouse.

"Whatever is on [AFL-CIO President] John Sweeney''s wish list will be Al Gore''s agenda -- I think it''s that simple," opined Pat Cleary, vice president for human resources for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

It may not be quite that simple, but organized labor''s safety and health agenda would surely be very influential in a Gore administration.

For this reason, Occupational Hazards asked the director of the AFL-CIO''s Department of Occupational Safety and Health Peg Seminario, what changes she would like to see at OSHA if Gore wins the White House.

A more robust and efficient rulemaking process is at the top of the list. Seminario complained that under Clinton "not much really has happened in the rulemaking area." She said she would like to see new rules in the areas of metalworking fluids, permissible exposure levels (PELs), hexavalent chromium, and silica.

With respect to OSHA management, Seminario called for more integration among the rulemaking, enforcement, and educational functions of the agency.

"If you spend much time with OSHA, you come to realize very quickly it''s an agency with lots of different pieces that don''t function very well together," she said.

While there has been some movement in this direction under OSHA''s strategic plan, she said the agency still has a long way to go.

For example, she called for developing compliance assistance for a new rule while the new rule is being written, so that compliance dates need not be delayed once the rule comes out. "I think this is just good management," she said, "and it hasn''t happened."

Seminario also urged a different approach toward OSHA''s targeted enforcement strategy.

She recommended developing a profile of employers using many pieces of information -- not just lost workday case rates. "I''d use total injuries, and I would look at enforcement history."

Seminario criticized OSHA for doing nothing with respect to enforcement on the health side of the equation.

In addition, Seminario thought some enforcement ought to be based on new standards. "We went through all this to get these standards issued," she said, "so where do we want to target to see if the behavior is being moved?"

by James Nash

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