A New OSHA Leader: What a Corporate Safety and Health Director Has to Say

A New OSHA Leader: What a Corporate Safety and Health Director Has to Say

OH&S conducted an interview with Richard Cerenzio to get his input on the soon-to-be OSHA lead, Doug Parker, and the challenges he may face.

The White House said California Workplace Safety Chief, Doug Parker, will soon lead OSHA as the assistant secretary of labor. The role took a great importance due to the pandemic as the administration is weighing whether to issue a standard to create a set of COVID-19 safety regulations. Parker leads California’s Division of OSH and previously worked at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) during the Obama Administration. He also began his career as an attorney at the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA).

Parker is the first senate confirmed OSHA head since 2017.

Richard Cerenzio, Corporate Health, Safety, Environment and Sustainability Senior Technical Director at ISN, gave us some insight on Parker’s new role.

1. Doug Parker has been chosen to lead OSHA. What assumptions can we make about his nomination with Parker hailing from California—a state known for its progressive state OSHA plan?

I think companies can assume the seriousness of President Biden’s push for OSHA to implement a Federal Emergency Temporary Standard.

2. Following the confirmation of Parker, there will most likely be an increase in enforcement. How can companies prepare for this increased pressure from OSHA?

Hopefully most companies are at least somewhere on the path to pandemic protection of their employees. However, it will take each company to provide resources to not only reassess their current efforts being made, but to also provide additional resources to close any gaps they might identify. Should Parker successfully be confirmed, companies will need to be prepared for increased action by OSHA, as his appointment looks to be directed at getting results laid out in the President’s plan regarding protecting workers.

Companies need to ensure that they are implementing policies to protect employees, including wearing PPE and practicing social distancing. Companies should take extra steps to ensure the health of their workers including screening workers for symptoms before entry. Regardless of exposure risks in the workplace, companies must encourage employees to continue to practice wearing masks, washing hands frequently and monitoring their symptoms.

Additionally, companies will need to be ready for the actual OSHA inspection if/when it occurs. To do that, companies need to ensure documentation is in place that shows the review procedure of existing policies along with documented training of their employees on any new or revised procedures they may choose to implement. Companies should also ensure that not only was training completed but have proof that the training received was understood. Typically, a documented quiz or acknowledgement of understanding should be in place. Companies should then follow up with walking the worksite and randomly asking questions of employees to, again, ensure knowledge of the changes made.

The biggest problem I foresee are employees who practice safe procedures while at work, but fail to do so once they're outside of work. The best thing for companies to do is to continue encouraging their employees to follow more stringent standards than their legislative restrictions require.

3. Companies that have a culture of safety in their workplace generally have lower injury rates and less issues with compliance. What is your advice to organizations that are looking to bulk up their safety cultures or start from scratch?

For companies looking to bulk up their safety culture, they need to ensure not only that they have written policies in place but also that employees understand them and are using safety policies in their day-to-day tasks. The tasks that workers are doing onsite should be able to tie back to a safety training they previously received or a policy their company has in place.

To successfully accomplish this, companies need to assess both contractor management and field workers to gain their pulse and measure their knowledge and practice of their programs as well as their clients’. An example of an assessment could combine direct conversation with management personnel and surveying individual employees on their retention of training and practices. Companies also need to be able to gauge the culture at each of their sites as they do vary and not just with their own employees but with contractors working at those sites. One of the most consistent tools for measuring culture is by using a culture assessment survey to help identify positive actions taken as well as areas or gaps that need to be addressed.

A critical component to the success of an assessment survey is to take action on any items identified for improvement as well as reply to respondents on the actions taken.

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