MIOSHA in Jeopardy?

OSHA recently took a hard look at state plans, sending audit reports to them that some criticized. Now that state legislatures are desperately looking for budgetary savings, the OSH community may need to raise their voices to save these programs. The American Society of Safety Engineers' president, Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, e-mailed a Feb. 24 letter to Michigan state Sen. Mark Jansen ([email protected]) telling him that the association – celebrating its 100 birthday this year – opposes his bill, SB 14, that would eliminate the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Agency (MIOSHA).

I can’t think of a worse proposal. If you'll read his letter, available here, I feel sure you'll agree. Hill argues persuasively that federal OSHA cannot be as responsive to Michigan employers' concerns as MIOSHA. Who could disagree?

"A good example of MIOSHA's effectiveness in responding to Michigan's needs is its March 2009 Memorandum, 'Penalty Considerations During Economic Downturn,' under which MIOSHA granted an additional 10% reduction in penalty during the settlement process for those items abated during the inspection or during the settlement negotiation process," Hill wrote. "In total, an employer could receive up to a 60% penalty reduction for all abated hazards. Michigan needed that kind of regulatory response in a time of deep economic problems. Federal OSHA could not similarly be as responsive to this state's needs."

MIOSHA has been fair and balanced. Its enforcement has been even handed, in my opinion, and it readily recognizes and publicizes the achievements of high achievers in safety, as its January 2010 press release about the Rising Star Award for workplace safety and health excellence given to Detroit Edison's River Rouge Power Plant attests.

MIOSHA's benefits to the state exceed its budget, Hill wrote, and "for the most recent five years of data, with MIOSHA assistance Michigan's decreases in injury, illness, and fatality rates have equaled or surpassed national averages.

"Reducing state expenditures is a laudable goal. The elimination of MIOSHA may be one in a long list of remedies to the state's budgetary dilemma. MIOSHA's absence will however have long term consequences well beyond the short term budgetary fix. While we understand in these difficult times there is pressure to eliminate state programs, keeping MIOSHA is cost-effective and a strategic way to ensure that our workers and Michigan's businesses are treated in a way that helps them achieve safety and health for Michigan workers without being overly burdened with inflexible regulatory oversight."

Hear, hear. I hope safety professionals in Michigan and beyond will contact Sen. Jansen to enlighten him about this agency.

Jansen, by the way, chairs the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on retirement and serves on the new Department of Labor and Economic Growth Subcommittee. MIOSHA is part of the state Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Feb 26, 2011