Sent: December 19, 2009 5:59:53
an extract from a speech which David Michaels gave on 16 Dec at a NIOSH
workshop on green and safe jobs. Dr Michaels is the new
Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, and author of the book "Doubt is
their product". The
general theme of the speech is green jobs, with quite a lot about the
importance of worker participation.
have a vision of a greener world where there is full and complete hazard
information available for every chemical and every chemical mixture;
where science is at work not only to make more effective and more
profitable chemicals, but safer chemicals, too. I dream of a world where
workers can labor on an equal basis with management to find safe
chemicals and develop and implement processes that won't put workers in
We have an enormous chasm to bridge between the
ideal future and the imperfect present. Today we suspect that at least a
couple of thousand high-use chemicals out there may present some threat
to worker health. Yet, OSHA currently regulates about 500 chemicals,
based mostly on science from the 1950s and 1960s. And how many chemical
standards has OSHA issued in the past twelve years?
So, not only are we lacking critical information
about the hazards of many chemicals, but we have virtually no
information about the hazards of chemical mixtures.
* If we
don't pay attention at the dawn of this new green revolution, we'll be
replicating past problems as we move into future industries. I'm making
it my mission and OSHA's mission to ensure that this doesn't
Another part of the bigger picture is chemical safety, as I
outlined earlier. That's Principle Number Two. For
The European Community's REACH program will provide
American industry and workers with more and better information about the
chemicals they are exposed to. More important, REACH is also, finally,
challenging the old paradigm where chemicals are considered innocent
until proven guilty -- and all too often proven guilty by the sick and
dead bodies of American workers.
o The Globally
Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals will also
contribute consistency, efficiency, and more and better information --
leading to greater worker safety and health.
o Congress is
working closely with
the EPA and Lisa Jackson are moving toward reforming the Toxic
Substances Control Act (TSCA).
if this administration and this Congress can see fit to move forward
with TSCA reform, is there any reason we shouldn't move forward at the
same time to reform the way worker exposure to chemicals is regulated
and controlled? I don't think so, and I plan to ensure that OSHA
participates with NIOSH and EPA in all discussions about chemical
regulation in this country.