OSHA Reorganizes, Champions the 'Little Guy'

Aug. 28, 2002
In an interview with Occupational Hazards, OSHA Administrator John Henshaw talks about the agencys restructuring plan, designed to help employers, and particularly small business owners, get the compliance help they need to prevent workplace illnesses and injuries.

Assistant Secretary of Labor John Henshaw is working hard to get his agency's new message of compliance assistance, outreach and cooperation out to America's employers, large and small. OSHA announced today that it is restructuring and renaming directorates and offices to "realign our resources and functions around proven strategies that will produce the best results in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses," according to Henshaw.

In one of the boldest moves announced by the agency today, compliance assistance is being separated from enforcement activities. In fact, the Directorate of Compliance Programs, which in the past included both compliance assistance and enforcement activities, will become the Directorate of Enforcement Programs.

"We want a clear delineation between enforcement and compliance," noted Henshaw, and the change "shows the separation of the two."

Compliance assistance will be moved to the newly named Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs. The new directorate will coordinate OSHA's role in carrying out compliance assistance and outreach activities. Three new offices will be created in the new directorate, including the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, the Office of Outreach Services and Alliances and the Office of Small Business Assistance.

"Small business owners are struggling with a lot of things, including how to comply with OSHA regulations," Henshaw noted in an interview with Occupational Hazards. "We want to focus more on delivering the education and assistance they need so they can comply. They want to do the right thing; they want to comply, and we want to help them do that."

Henshaw conceded that in the past, the nature of OSHA's organizational structure, which lumped compliance assistance with enforcement activities, might have scared off some employers who needed and wanted help. "Employers need to know that if they call for help, unless it's a life or death situation, we will get them right tools to comply" without raining down citations first, he said. The mission of the agency, he acknowledged, is not to cite employers after injuries or deaths occur, but to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Back in June, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced her department was launching a new initiative to help small business owners navigate what she called the "regulatory jungle" and do a better job of protecting employees. The goal of the initiative is to help employers better understand and meet their responsibilities to protect workers under the nation's labor laws and regulations, including OSHA regulations.

When asked what the reorganization of the agency means to a small employer, Henshaw commented, "It means OSHA is organized around several things, including compliance assistance. It's [compliance assistance] not an add-on. It's a key job. We're serious about delivering on compliance assistance."

Other changes announced today by OSHA include the streamlining of the Directorate of Health Standards and the Directorate of Safety Standards into one new organization: the Directorate of Standards and Guidance.

The current Directorate of Compliance will be replaced by the Directorate of Evaluation and Analysis. The new directorate will focus on on-site audits of regional and area office operations. The Office of Statistics will be transferred to the new directorate, as will the Correspondence Control Unit.

And, apparently, the agency has no more need for the Office of Reinvention, which will be eliminated. The staff of that organization will be transferred to the new Directorate of Evaluation and Analysis, where they will work on performance measurement, program evaluation and customer service-related functions.

For more information about OSHA's restructuring, visit www.osha.gov.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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