Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, presented the agency’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to National Safety Congress attendees.
“We really need to take occupational health and safety into the 21st century,” he said.
The Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs document has not been updated since 1989. Many changes have spurred the need for a revision. The forward lists some of these changes:
- The nature of work is evolving as the economy continues to shift from a manufacturing to a service base, and from a fixed to an often mobile workforce.
- Automation of work activities means that technology, computers, and robotics are being integrated into our workplaces, often introducing new and different hazards.
- Greater diversity in the workplace means that people from different backgrounds and cultures are working alongside each other, often speaking different languages.
- An aging workforce and the rise of sedentary work and lifestyle means that some workers are at higher risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
- There is greater recognition that workers in industries that some think of as safe (such as healthcare, lodging, retail, and transportation) face significant hazards.
- Increased temporary and contract employment, and the rise of the “gig economy” mean that traditional relationships between workers and employers are shifting.
The new guidelines cover general industry. A separate set of recommendations will be released by year-end 2016 to address the unique challenges of the construction industry.
Michaels went on to state the benefits of a dedicated safety and health program.
“Injuries cost employers tremendous amounts of money,” he said. “Safety and health programs do not only reduce injury rates, they save employers money.”