Monday, March 08, 2004

OSHA Alliances: Meaningless Media or Bureaucratic Incest?

I admit to being rather skeptical of OSHA's frenzy to form "alliances" with everything that moves.

Over the past three years, OSHA has formed over 140 alliances with "organizations committed to workplace safety and health to collaborate with OSHA to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace." (Virtually none of OSHA's alliances are with labor unions, which is perfectly understandable as one of the goals of alliances is to "build trusting, cooperative relationships with the Agency.")

Not that it's bad to work with other organizations, share information, provide assistance, go to each others' conferences, etc. Those are good things. But these are not activities that Republicans invented over the past couple of years; OSHA has always done these things. It used to just be called "outreach," and OSHA used to be able to perform these outreach activities at the same timethat they worked on issuing new standards and enforcing the law. Now it seems like it's either one or the other.

With OSHA sunk into a state of suspended animation (some would call it a coma) and closing down its standard making operation, the agency apparently needed to find a way to justify its increasingly irrelevant existence in this anti-regulatory, anti-enforcement, business-controlled Republican administration. The answer was to issue a steady stream of press releases announcing new alliances whenever some industry association wiggles its butt in OSHA's direction.

But now OSHA has gone from the silly to the absurd: The agency has just announced an alliance with the New York State Safety Council and the New York State Department of Labor's Consultation Program.

So what's wrong with that?

Well, OSHA has always worked with the National Safety Council and their state affiliates. Every Fall for decades half of OSHA's staff troops merrily (or dutifully) to the National Safety Council's annual conference. And until recently, they did it without forming an Alliance or issuing a single press release.

And the NY State Consultation Program? Consultation programs are basically an extension of OSHA's compliance assistance programs: they are authorized under the OSHA Act and funded out of OSHA's budget. Forming an alliance between OSHA and a state consultation program is like me issuing a press release announcing that I was forming an alliance with my daughter to help with her homework.

So what's the deal? Is OSHA running out of industry associations to form alliances with? I mean what are they going to do if (God, please don't strike me dead for even thinking this) they somehow get re-elected? and have to find alliance partners for four more years? Clearly alliances with unions are out of the picture.

Hmmm.... I can just imagine.........

March 8, 2007

Washington -- Improving workplace health and safety by enhancing the efficiency of the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA is the goal of a new alliance between the left hand and the right hand of Assistant Secretary of Labor, John Henshaw.

OSHA alliances are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of workers through cooperative partnerships.

Henshaw's arms and fingers will also take part in the alliance. The purpose of the alliance is to provide Henshaw's hands with information, guidance and access to resources he needs to be able to type, write, gesticulate and scratch his nose.

This Alliance follows last week's successful Alliance between Henshaw's brain and his mouth. Two weeks ago, OSHA announced the formation of 134 new Alliances when each of OSHA's ten regions formed alliances with every other region.

OSHA also announced today that it will rescind its plan to order all OSHA employees to form alliances with other OSHA employees. After careful consideration, the Solicitor of Labor determined that such alliances could be interpreted as violating employees' marriage vows and could, in some circumstances, also be in conflict with the new constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

Since 2001, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created more than 32 million alliances with organizations, companies, hot dog stands, contributors to the Republican party, Mrs. Sewel's third grade class, various stray cats, dogs and large insects who are committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace. OSHA is dedicated to saving lives, preventing injuries, regulations and illnesses and protecting the health and safety of American workers. For more information, visit

Update: There is apparently NO truth to the rumor that OSHA was in the process forming an alliance with Martha Stewart prior to her unfortunate conviction. In response to a question, a high-ranking OSHA official is reported to have replied: "I did not form an alliance with that women!"