Michaels addresses safety and health programs, whistleblowers

May 20, 2010

OSHA administrator David Michaels is asking for stakeholders' help in distinguishing between effective and non-effective workplace safety and health programs.

During a May 12 webinar, Michaels warned that programs using incentives actually may discourage injury reporting, leading to inaccurate data and costing the worker injury compensation.

OSHA is considering issuing a rulemaking requiring companies to implement an injury and illness prevention program, and Michaels said the agency is looking for feedback on what aspects do and do not work in such programs.

When asked about OSHA's National Emphasis Program on recordkeeping (.pdf file), Michaels said results so far indicate about one-third of workplaces targeted under the NEP have incentive programs. The NEP was launched last September in response to a Government Accountability Office report (.pdf file) suggesting fear and intimidation may lead to inaccurate injury reporting.

In a May 11 speech before the Professionals for the Professionals for the Public Interest in Washington, Michaels said a "top-to-bottom" review of OSHA's whistleblower protection program would be conducted, and addressed the difficulties and inconsistencies in the "patchwork" of laws protecting whistleblowers. He praised the whistleblower protection provisions in the Protecting America's Workers Act (S. 1580), but said reform of all whistleblower statutes is necessary.