OSHA Proposes Top-Level Management Moves

Nearly nine months after his confirmation as OSHA administrator, John Henshaw is seeking to put his stamp on the agency by reorganizing the national office.

Nearly nine months after his confirmation as OSHA administrator, John Henshaw is seeking to put his stamp on the agency by reorganizing the national office.

"I think [the reorganization] better aligns our functions, better aligns our talents, avoids duplication and capitalizes on synergy we have across the agency," said Henshaw in an interview yesterday with Occupational Hazards, moments before unveiling the plan.

The reorganization is a proposal at this point because the changes must be approved by the local union, AFGE-Local 12.

Henshaw said the moves are intended to implement his four priorities for OSHA: fair and effective enforcement, expanded compliance assistance and outreach, expanded partnerships and voluntary programs, national leadership in the dialogue about occupational safety and health.

The management shifts and the new names for familiar functions also appear to nudge OSHA closer to the business-friendly philosophy championed by the Bush administration - an approach that may tilt away from the agency''s traditional regulatory and policy functions.

For example, employees in the Office of Regulatory Analysis are being reassigned elsewhere in the agency, according to an April 23 memo Henshaw wrote to explain the restructuring of the national office. If OSHA intends to issue fewer major standards, it would not need to do as much as before in the way of regulatory analysis.

The major structural and nomenclature proposed changes include:

  • The current Directorate of Federal-State Operations will be expanded and renamed the Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs. Its new functions will include offices of small business, partnerships and recognition, and outreach services and alliances. This new directorate, headed by Paula White, will serve as OSHA''s lead organization for carrying out compliance assistance and related functions, a key priority of the new OSHA.
  • The Directorate of Evaluation and Analysis will replace the existing Directorate of Policy. This new organization will focus on measuring performance and evaluating programs, such as the on-site audits of regional offices, and customer service issues. What remains of the Office of Regulatory Analysis will stay in this directorate.
  • The reorganization will combine the two separate directorates that promulgate safety and health standards, a move that has long been discussed at OSHA. The new Directorate of Standards and Guidance, headed by Steve Witt, will also include a new function: the development of non-regulatory approaches to workplace hazards.

The single new standards directorate will "streamline the standard-setting process" according to Henshaw. He also said that by drawing on the talents of the highly trained rulemaking professionals, the move would help the agency "get guidance out there as quickly as we can."

Henshaw asserted the changes reflect input he has had from hundreds of people in the agency about how to make OSHA a more effective organization.

"Congress has given us a mission," he said, "and we need to create an organization that accomplishes that mission."

by James Nash

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