Federal agencies

DOL releases draft of Strategic Plan, seeks comment

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Washington – The Department of Labor is looking to expand OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs and the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s compliance assistance for mine operators, DOL states in a draft of its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2018 to 2022.

The agency published a notice in the Nov. 7 Federal Register seeking comment on the draft.

The agency hosted two public meetings on how to improve VPP, the most recent on Aug. 28 in New Orleans, with the National Safety Council weighing in via a letter sent Oct. 20. A DOL Inspector General report in September revealed weaknesses in reporting and recording systems involving contract workers, who were involved in 23 fatalities or catastrophes at VPP sites from July 2013 through September 2016.

OSHA intends to complete its VPP improvements in 2018, Doug Kalinowski, director of OSHA’s Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs, said during a Technical Session on Sept. 25 during the 2017 NSC Congress & Expo in Indianapolis.

With about 7.7 million workplaces under OSHA and State Plan jurisdiction, DOL states that OSHA “continues to target high-risk industries for inspection and enforcement activity,” and “OSHA’s inspection regime remains active and with various data sets, enforcement will target bad actors and recalcitrant employers.”

DOL points out in its draft that coal production reached its lowest level in history in 2016, putting mining jobs at risk – including MSHA inspectors. However, the agency is anticipating increases in mining production and employment as a result of a potential forthcoming spike in demand for infrastructure raw materials.

Three overall strategic goals are listed in the DOL plan draft:

  • Supporting “the ability of all Americans to find good jobs”
  • Ensuring safe jobs and fair workplaces
  • Promoting strong workers’ compensation and benefits programs

The draft also details how component agencies will achieve supporting goals and strategic objectives in the next four years, and includes Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta’s vision.

“The strategic plan outlines how we will increase employment opportunities for Americans of all abilities, enforce safe and healthy workplaces, bring common sense to regulations, and use our resources efficiently and effectively,” Acosta wrote in the draft’s introduction.

The deadline for comments is Dec. 7.

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