"Back in the enforcement business"
New Labor secretary tells ASSE meeting she wants to "return respect to OSHA"
In an address to about 4,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professionals at the opening of American Society of Safety Engineers ‘ three-day conference in San Antonio, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said they are ready to get to work to protect workers and thanked the attendees for all that they do to ensure worker safety.
"Thank you all for the work that you do every day to protect workers as it is not easy," Solis said. "Especially during these difficult economic times. I am also here to tell you that the President believes this government has responsibility to protect workers and protect them from unsafe workplaces.
"The Department of Labor is back in the enforcement business," Solis continued. "We will be working with all stakeholders because as you know, workplace safety is everyone’s business."
Solis also announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will launch a major construction safety initiative in Texas to prevent workplace fatalities and injuries. The department noted that Texas has the highest rate of on-the-job fatalities than any other state. In 2008 there were 67 fatalities, and in 2009 there have been 33. Solis also noted that in 2007 and 2008 more than 3,000 inspections were conducted by OSHA in the southeastern states.
Solis noted that there are several people that have been nominated to serve at the DOL in a variety of positions, including the head of OSHA, yet they are still in the pipeline.
"We are ready to get to work as we have a lot to do to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses," Solis said. "I want OSHA to get back to being active and robust. And I want to make it clear that we want to partner with business to keep workers safe – to partner with safety professionals, businesses and communities."
To do this, Solis discussed the proposed department budget for the DOL for 2010 of $1.7 billion to go towards programs which include $50.6 million for OSHA, allowing for the hiring of at least 130 more inspectors and an increase by 10% the number of inspections.
"Despite these tough economic times, we hope to have this budget approved," Solis said. "We look forward to working with businesses – large and small – as we have in successful programs in New York and California. We will also be building on practices that work.
"We want to return respect to OSHA," Solis said.