Tuesday, October 18, 2005

AIHA: Foulke Will Be Best OSHA Director -- Ever!

The American Industrial Hygiene Association ("the premier association of occupational and environmental health and safety professionals") has endorsed Edwin Foulke for Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
AIHA believes Mr. Foulke is committed to the proposition that OSHA can serve both the objectives of protecting the worker and helping businesses to be profitable – that these objectives are complementary.
The endorsement didn't go over well with all AIHA members. Social Concerns Committee member Buck Cameron wonders: "I must be getting forgetful. I can't seem to recall the section of the OSH Act that gives OSHA the responsibility for promoting employer profitability. Can anyone help me out here?"

Good question, Buck. Maybe the AIHA is confusing OSHA with the Department of Commerce?

The best place to check to help Buck out is Section 2 of the Act, Congressional Findings and Purpose which starts off:
(a) The Congress finds that personal injuries and illnesses arising out of work situations impose a substantial burden upon, and are a hindrance to, interstate commerce in terms of lost production, wage loss, medical expenses, and disability compensation payments.

(b) The Congress declares it to be its purpose and policy, through the exercise of its powers to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations and to provide for the general welfare, to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources --
Unless you interpret "regulating commerce" or perhaps providing for the "general welfare" as somehow meaning "helping businesses to be profitable."

There's also a bunch of other garbage there about "providing for the development and promulgation of occupational safety and health standards," "providing for training programs," "exploring ways to discover latent diseases, establishing causal connections between diseases and work in environmental conditions," and bunch of other things that OSHA doesn't seem to have time, resources or will to do anymore -- what with all the time and energy the agency spends "helping businesses to be profitable."

The only reservation the AIHA has
would be the concern that Mr. Foulke does not bring any "front-line" health and safety experience to the position. As some have said, "the job of OSHA assistant secretary is different from being on the commission".
Some have also said that the job of OSHA assistant secretary is different from working for a law firm specializing in "union avoidance" while spending most of your career representing companies that are fighting OSHA citations.