OSHA Chief Updates Congress on Challenges of Changing Structure of Work
On Oct. 7, Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels testified before the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, updating members of Congress on the agency’s activities and describing recent challenges related to the changing structure of work. The OSHA chief discussed the dramatic increase in the number of temporary workers in nearly all types of workplaces, and detailed the challenges that arise with the changing structure of employment relationships in cases where multiple employers have a role in preventing workplace injury and illness. Michaels described this change as a “major challenge” in the oil and gas industry especially, where work sites are often transitory, time-limited operations located in remote places. But multi- or joint-employer structures present legal challenges to OSHA’s traditional enforcement measures in almost every industry, Michaels told the subcommittee. “Unless properly managed, these structural employment changes greatly increase risks of injuries and illnesses among all the workers in these workplaces,” Michaels said. “We have found that too often employers do not provide temporary workers with the same protections or training as permanent employees.” OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative elevates hazards facing temporary workers to national concern and is intended to help host employers and staffing agencies understand their responsibilities for protecting workers. Michaels also discussed OSHA standards activities and additional initiatives, including the executive order actions to improve chemical facility safety; its severe injury reporting program; and safety and health campaigns on heat illness prevention, fall prevention, and protecting healthcare workers. Read his full testimony on OSHA’s website.