By R. Ronald Sokol, CSP
President and CEO of Safety Council of Texas City
Now on to the governmental affairs update. The first thing I’d like to comment on is the monumental change of how things now get done in Washington. It’s called governing by Executive Order (EO). To illustrate my point, let’s look at the governing strategies of the past four President’s as it relates to the use of EO’s during their first 100 days in office. President Bush issued 13 EO’s during his first 100 days. President Obama issued 34 EO’s during his first 100 days and President Trump issued 39 EO’s. President Biden has issued 60 EO’s during his first 100 days and one of the first EO’s was to instruct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop recommendations to modernize regulatory review aimed at reversal of the Trump EO that required two regulations to be eliminated from any governmental regulatory agency before one new regulation could be proposed. I believe the next four years will witness a greater increase in governmental oversight. Speaking specifically in the areas of safety and health, I anticipate a greater emphasis on the enforcement of worker safety and health regulations. Democrats introduced a labor rights bill called the PRO ACT that would allow the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to levy fines against employers who violate workers’ rights, give employees more power to participate in strikes, weaken so-called right to work laws, and offer certain independent contractors the protections held by employees.
Another legislative Act has resurfaced as the Protecting America’s Workers Act (HR 1074) was reintroduced in Congress. This legislation would make several changes to the OSHA Act, including expanding OSHA’s authority to protect federal, state, and local government employees as well as adding stronger penalties and prison terms for certain safety violations.
Speaking on enforcement and penalties, OSHA is slated to receive a 12% funding increase in the first Department of Labor budget request under President Biden. The budget includes funding for 155 new compliance officers to complement the existing 790 compliance officers employed by OSHA in FY 2020. OSHA penalties increased January 15, 2021 by 1.182% which was less than the 1.78% increase under the Trump Administration. OSHA violations classified as serious, other than serious or posting violations increased from $13,491 to $13,653 per violation and a willful, or failure to abate violation, increased from $134,937 to $136,532 per violation.
Another topic I’ll comment on is the possibility of OSHA enacting an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID19. Currently 14 states have issued either an ETS or EO dealing with COVID19. The states that have issued an ETS are California, Michigan, Oregon, Virginia and Washington with the California or Virginia ETS being the front runners on what a Federal ETS by OSHA could entail. It’s worth noting that current Cal OSHA Director Doug Parker has been nominated by Labor Secretary Walsh to head up OSHA who hasn’t had an Assistant Secretary of Labor since Dr. David Michaels left OSHA in early 2017. Mr. Parker’s Senate confirmation was held May 27, 2021 before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee with confirmation expected. OSHA currently stated that the proposed ETS is currently under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) since April 26, 2021.
Lastly, I was informed by Labor Secretary Walsh that I was selected to serve on the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) as one of the two Public Representatives for a third term from May 14, 2021 to May 14, 2023. I was honored to accept the nomination. ACCSH consists of 15 members with five representing employee groups, five representing employers, two representing State Plans, two representing the Public and one designated representative of NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health. My previous terms serving as one of the two Public Representatives on ACCSH were from 2016-2018 and 2019-2021. The past twenty years of working in Washington D.C. on safety and health issues has exposed me to some of the brightest minds and most dedicated advocates of worker safety and health. I count it a privilege to stand with them in protecting workers in our nation and the ARSC members stand with me in accomplishing this goal.
- Safety and Health Magazine
- ASSP website and Professional Safety Magazine
- S. Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions
- CNN News