Oregon OSHA Health and Safety

RESOURCE

February 2016

Administrator's Message

Michael Wood
Michael Wood,
Oregon OSHA Administrator

Workplace health and safety in 2016

As we begin the new year, those of us who work to make workplaces safer here in Oregon may well take a moment to reflect on our past successes – as well as the challenges that remain before us.

This time of year, I am frequently asked about what has changed … what new initiatives we will be pursuing … what new safety challenges are arising in the workplace … what changes we may be making in how we try to make safer workplaces a reality.

There are, of course, a number of new initiatives on the horizon, both here in Oregon and at the federal level. There are potential new efforts and renewed emphasis in relation to chemical exposures, fall protection in construction, confined spaces, firefighting, dual employer situations, and high voltage transmission facilities, to name just a few. So it would be inaccurate to say that 2016 will simply look like 2015 or 2014.

And yet, much of what we do, we will continue to do. Much of what we do here at Oregon OSHA and in the broader workplace health and safety committee will indeed remain unchanged as the year progresses.

In part, that is because we have a good sense of what works. The fundamentals of workplace health and safety – the need for robust hazard recognition, the need for a supportive system, and the importance of the hierarchy of controls – do not change simply because an old year has passed and a new year has begun.

And, in part, the lack of a change in focus is because the hazards we place and the problems that contribute to them remain largely unchanged – in some cases, they seem almost intractable. We focus on fall protection because the risks of fall protection remain very real. We have but to glance at the data to see the problem. We struggle with effective lockout/tagout because the failure to control the energy sources of machinery kills and maims workers every year. We pay attention to excavation and trenching because we continue to see to many unshored and unprotected trenches. And their consequences.

We emphasize logging and construction and agriculture and manufacturing because that is where we find many of the risks that require our attention. And because achieving real and lasting change does not always come easily.

As we look back over the past decades, we have much to be proud of here in Oregon. Those committed to workplace health and safety have made a real difference. But as we look around us today, we know that we have not yet arrived at our ultimate destination. And as we look toward the future we can dream of a day when some of the risks we face today have largely become nothing but memories.

We have done a great deal. But there is much left to do.

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