Ergonomics again became a hot topic with the Department of Labor as Secretary Elaine Chao addressed groups during a speech at Small Business Week celebrations. Chao also congratulated Small Business Owner of the Year, Thanh Lam.
Chao briefly related her own experiences as an immigrant to the US to those of Lam, who is also an immigrant. Chao commented on the character of numerous Americans who are small business owners and even quoted de Tocqueville who is known for his political and cultural analysis of American democracy in the late 1800’s.
After praising the efforts and contributions of small businesses to the economy, Chao stated that she was “mindful” of the fact that, “sometimes the government does things that are well-intentioned but put an enormous burden on your businesses”. She continued by saying, “That’s why we are increasing our emphasis at the Department of Labor on compliance assistance. We want to get helpful information out to you to make it easier for you to comply with these regulations. We want to make sure the Department of Labor staff is there to help you, not just to fine and punish you, should you make an inadvertent mistake.”
Citing the department’s recent approach to ergonomics, Chao stated:
“The previous administration developed a regulation that was so massive and burdensome that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress voted to invalidate it.
We decided to take a different approach to ergonomics that would, first and foremost, help workers quickly. The plan we released in April doesn’t just order small businesses like yours what to do; it proposes safety guidelines that will be worked out cooperatively with businesses and workers.
And now we are working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the SBA that would dedicate the combined efforts of OSHA and the SBA office of Advocacy to provide helpful information to small businesses about worker safety – with a particular emphasis on ergonomics.
I’m really looking forward to signing that directive. Because at the Department of Labor, we know that small-business owners wear a lot of hats, one of which is director of your business’s worker safety program. And we want to help you with that job.
It’s good for business, and it’s good for workers. ”
More on Choa’s speech at Small Business Week is available at http://www.dol.gov.