ISEA Allies With OSHA What Does It Mean?

As of the end of November, OSHA had formed 131 alliances with stakeholders since the program began in March 2002. The rapidly expanding alliance program seems to typify OSHA Administrator John Henshaw's policy preference for cooperative and voluntary programs as opposed to regulatory requirements.

OSHA signed an alliance agreement with the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) on Sept. 9, and while it is not certain it is representative of other alliances, a closer look at the ISEA/OSHA relationship may provide some clues about how this new program works.

Alliances differ from "Strategic Partnerships," explains Lee Anne Jillings, OSHA's director of the office of outreach services and alliances. The crucial differences between the two kinds of relationships are that alliances are not based on a specific worksite and have no enforcement component. Another difference is that partnerships originated in the Clinton administration.

Jillings identified three goals of alliances that typically are made explicit in formal alliance agreements:

  • Expand avenues for training and education;
  • Provide outreach and communication;
  • Promote the national dialogue on safety and health.

The alliance with ISEA is focused on communicating the importance of using personal protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate the hazards of heavy construction. "ISEA and its members can help our staff improve its outreach to the heavy construction industry," said Jillings. "We will be working with ISEA on a variety of projects to meet that end, such as items that will be put on our Web site, e-tools, presentations or actual product pieces."

Joe Walker, ISEA's marketing communications advisor said the alliance was "embryonic at this point" adding, "we've only had one meeting." He said the primary goal from ISEA's point of view is quite concrete: increase the use of PPE in the heavy construction industry.

ISEA's president, Dan Shipp, explained what the alliance does for his organization's efforts to sell safety products in the construction marketplace. "We get the benefit of OSHA's technical and communications resources, its contacts with every workplace in the country," he said.

Dan Glucksman, ISEA's public affairs director, pointed out that this alliance differs from others in one important respect: it has a way to measure its success. "One of the criticisms I've heard about alliance programs is the difficulty of measuring their value," he said.

ISEA can measure the alliance's effectiveness because in 2001 and 2002, before the alliance was signed, ISEA conducted surveys on the use of PPE in the heavy construction industry. Future surveys are planned, so it will be possible to see if the agreement altered workers' awareness and use of PPE.

But OSHA's vision of success appears to differ from ISEA's. OSHA's goal is "the dissemination of information," rather than changing behavior on worksites, according to Jillings. As examples of what she meant, Jillings mentioned providing electronic links and connecting OSHA personnel with ISEA members.

"I don't think we would base success of an alliance on a survey, although it could be a helpful tool to us," she said.

So far all of OSHA's alliances have been successful, according to Jillings. Current alliances are two-year agreements, but earlier ones expired after one year. So far all the one-year agreements that have expired have been renewed.

"We're happy with the return we're seeing," said Jillings. "We think it's been very positive."

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