As 2017 draws to a close, we here at Oregon OSHA are able to look back at a reasonably busy year. We have, of course, continued our bread-and-butter activities – enforcement visits, on-site consultation visits, and outreach efforts of various sorts. But we’ve also been tackling several additional issues.
For example, our effort to tackle at least a few of the outdated regulatory exposure levels is well underway – we’ve launched stakeholder advisory groups for both lead and manganese. The clearest lesson we’ve learned at this point is that nothing about these projects will be simple, but in each case, we’ve also been able to come together on a plan to move toward a formal proposed rule.
In 2017, we also implemented the previously adopted revision to the fall protection standard, with the 6-foot threshold taking effect the beginning of the year and the elimination of slide guards as a primary means of fall protection as of Oct. 1. And, in general industry, we adopted a slightly modified version of the comprehensive revisions to the (long overdue) changes to the walking/working surface rules adopted by federal OSHA.
Throughout 2017, we have also been working on the final phase of the pesticide worker protection standard updates, which relate to limited protective measures in areas adjacent to the treatment area where pesticides are applied. That rulemaking is still in process and won’t quite be resolved until February 2018 – it’s generated a good deal of discussion (and criticism) from a variety of perspectives as we attempt to strike an appropriate balance of worker protection and practicality.
And, of course, we are in the process of completing the hiring and training for the new field staff authorized by the Legislature for both enforcement and consultation – we know that one of our real assets as a program is the presence we have been able to establish in Oregon workplaces, and we are doing what we can to maintain that presence.
We also recently saw one of the clearest indications of our success, when the department announced an average 14 percent decrease in the pure premium rate for workers’ compensation. Oregon’s continued success in driving workers’ compensation rates down is due in large part to Oregon’s success in preventing claims, rather than simply managing them after they occur. And that reality provides an important reminder: Workplace safety and health is not simply the right thing to do, and is not necessarily in tension with the bottom line. Rather, it often can support the bottom line. Preventing workplace injury, illness, and death is good business.