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‘Safety as a companywide value’: OSHA’s Bill Donovan discusses region changes and enforcement activities


Rosemont, IL — The OSHA region that Bill Donovan oversees will soon be renamed, but what won’t change are the agency’s efforts to promote and protect worker safety and health.

Donovan – administrator of OSHA’s Chicago-based Region 5, which will be restructured along with other regions by October – spoke May 15 during the 2024 NSC Spring Safety Conference & Expo. He gave updates on multiple OSHA emphasis programs on the local, regional and national levels, as well as discussed new agency endeavors. All are intended to help drive the agency’s mission to instill safety and health as a core organizational principle.

“It’s not only the right thing to do; it’s a good thing to do. It’s a good business practice,” Donovan said. “You want safety as a companywide value because it’s a fundamental right for every worker, and we need your help to make sure we can spread the word and get people to buy into that.”

Although OSHA enforcement is necessary to protect against unsafe work practices, positive reinforcement also is important, Donavan said. One example stems from a national emphasis program on trenching and excavation. “I have my [compliance safety and health officers] out there; there’s 150 of them here in my states,” he said. “They stop in at every trench they see. When they see [workers] doing it right, I want them to stop also and thank them for doing it right. Because that’s important, too. We need that dialogue open.”

Donovan reported that as of April 30, Region 5 has experienced 67 worker deaths in fiscal year 2024 in the federal enforcement states of Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin. From FY 2020 to FY 2023, fatalities in those three states fell 48.4%. Fatalities in the region’s State Plan states – Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota – decreased 35.1% over the same period.

The number of federal fatalities so far this year is 14 more than it was through April 30 of last year.

Region 5 local or regional emphasis programs on noise and transportation tank cleaning are set to expire in 2026. Emphasis programs covering grain handling facilities, powered industrial vehicles, building renovation and rehabilitation, wood pallet manufacturers, and food manufacturing expire on Sept. 30, 2028.

New for federal OSHA: a more prominent position on combating distracted driving. Echoing remarks that OSHA administrator Doug Parker made during an April 10 panel discussion hosted by OSHA and the National Safety Council, Donovan said the agency intends to boost its involvement in roadway safety.

“More safe drivers on the road will help us all,” Donovan said.

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