I’ve now been on the job for two busy weeks as Acting Assistant Secretary and my greeting to everyone is overdue. I can first tell you that I’m thrilled to be back at OSHA and ready to work with you to raise the profile of worker safety and health in this country.
Earlier this week I met with Secretary of Labor Solis, and I’m very happy to report that she gets it. She understands working people, she understands and strongly supports the mission of this agency and wants to put her energy into ensuring that this agency succeeds in its mission. The first message I conveyed to her is that OSHA is full of some of the finest, most energetic, most dedicated people in the federal government and that I was proud to help her lead this agency.
Now, it’s no secret to any of you that this agency has come under some heavy criticism and scrutiny over the past few years. From my perspective, that criticism was focused not on what you do every day for working people, but on the lack of strong leadership promoting worker protection, strong regulatory activity, and aggressive enforcement.
I had more than one friend who warned me not to take this job because they felt that OSHA is a terminally sick agency. Nothing can be done to help it. The law is weak, resources lacking, the bureaucracy stifling, the regulatory system glacial, and the staff demoralized.
But I reject those arguments. Clearly there are some changes that need to be made in workplace safety in this country that are beyond OSHA’s control. But I have complete faith in OSHA’s mission, the staff of this agency and that OSHA can fulfill that mission – to protect American workers and assure safe workplaces.
There is much that we need to do. I need your help in reinvigorating the regulatory process, putting more emphasis on enforcement, pursuing a balanced approach to cooperative programs, finding new ways to ensure that employers provide safe workplaces, ensuring that no worker has to go to work afraid that he or she won’t live through the day, and ensuring that no employer is without the information and affordable assistance they need to make their workplaces safe.
I have a reputation of being a health and safety activist and an advocate for workers. But I don’t think I’m any different from any of you, or from the mission of this agency. I don’t believe that any of you would be working here if you didn’t see yourselves as activists and advocates for workers and workplace safety.
I have a vision that a year from now, as President Obama reaches the anniversary of his inauguration and the press looks back at the accomplishments of his first year, that one of his most sterling accomplishments will be the reinvigoration of OSHA, bringing this small, neglected, much criticized and embattled agency back to fighting form, to a shining example of the good that government can do in peoples’ lives.
Next Tuesday is Workers Memorial Day and Secretary Solis will be making a speech at the groundbreaking for a new workers’ memorial at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland. I hope you’ll all take a few moments that day to remember those hurt and killed on the job, and rededicate yourselves to working for safer workplaces.
There is a huge amount of work to be done. I have been given the mission to start this agency on that road. Hopefully soon, we’ll have a confirmed Assistant Secretary to take us the rest of the way. But ultimately, it’s you who are going to take us there: your energy, your enthusiasm, your creativity, your activism and your advocacy.
Acting Assistant Secretary
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
This letter can be found HERE