Whistleblowers and OSHA: Strengthening Professional Integrity
May 11, 2010
Presentation and discussion, 12:30 – 2 p.m.
Transcript: Dr. Michaels’ remarks, courtesy of OSHA
The Whistleblower Protection Program in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces whistleblower provisions in 17 federal statutes. The provisions aim to protect workers outside the federal government who disclose illegal practices in industries from nuclear power to securities to consumer products and others. Agencies other than the Department of Labor enforce the basic provisions of 16 of those 17 statutes.
A January 2009 Government Accountability Report noted the “increasing caseloads” and “case complexity” confronting the whistleblower program at every level. It cited “two key challenges” for OSHA: maintaining the quality of investigations and providing adequate resources for investigators. It did not directly question, however, whether the statutory structure makes sense.
How is the Whistleblower Protection Program working now? How do its challenges relate to its responsibilities across so many complex and specialized statutes and industries? How could other approaches strengthen the protections for whistleblowers in the interests of the public?
Dr. David Michaels
David Michaels, PhD, MPH, is Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, an epidemiologist and a nationally recognized leader in the scientific community’s efforts to protect the integrity of the science on which public health and environmental policies and regulation are based. Before coming to OSHA on December 9, 2009, he was Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, directing the department’s Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy.
From 1998 to 2001, Dr. Michaels served as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health. In that position, he was the chief architect of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, the historic initiative to compensate nuclear weapons workers who contracted occupational illnesses as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium and other hazards. The program has provided more than $5 billion in payments to sick workers and the families of deceased workers.
In 2006, Dr. Michaels was awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award, and, in 2009, the John P. McGovern Science and Society Award given by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, for his work in scientific integrity and for gaining compensation for nuclear weapons workers.
Dr. Michaels is the author of many scientific and policy publications, including Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s War on Science Threatens Your Health (Oxford University Press, 2008). He is a graduate of the City College of New York, and holds a Master in Public Health and PhD from Columbia University.
Albert H. (Al) Teich is Director of Science & Policy Programs at AAAS, a position he has held since 1990. He is responsible for the Association’s activities in science and technology policy and serves as a key spokesperson on science policy issues. Science and Policy Programs, which includes activities in ethics, law, science and religion, and human rights, as well as science policy, has a staff of 40 and a annual budget exceeding $10 million. He also serves as director of the AAAS Archives.
Teich received his bachelor’s degree in physics and his PhD in political science, both from M.I.T. Prior to joining the AAAS staff in 1980, he held positions at George Washington University, the State University of New York, and Syracuse University. Al is the author of numerous articles and editor of several books, including Technology and the Future, the most widely used college textbook on technology and society, the eleventh edition of which was published in 2008 by Cengage Learning.
He is a Fellow of AAAS and the recipient of the 2004 Award for Scientific Achievement in Science Policy from the Washington Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the editorial advisory boards to the journals, Science Communication; Science, Technology, and Human Values; Prometheus; Review of Policy Research; and Renewable Resources and has been a consultant to government agencies, national laboratories, industrial firms, and international organizations. He is the immediate past president of the Washington Academy of Sciences; past chair of the Board of Governors of the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation, where he remains a member of the executive committee; a member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Maine Space Grant Consortium; the Norwegian Research and Technology Forum in the United States; the Advisory Board of the University of Virginia’s Department of Science, Technology and Society; the External Research Advisory Board of the University of California, Davis; and the Council of Advisors for Research and Innovation Strategy of the National University of Singapore.
Teich is married to Jill H. Pace, executive director of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers. He has three children and four grandchildren. He is an accomplished amateur photographer, has published photographs in a number of books and magazines, and has had shows at the Black & White Gallery in Arlington, Virginia, in 2005, in the AAAS Science and Art Exhibition Gallery in 2006, and at the Penn Place Gallery in Garrett Park, Maryland, in August-September 2008. One of his photographs was also included in an exhibit in the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, from April through September 2009.
Paul E. Almeida
Paul E. Almeida is the president of the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE), a coalition of 23 national unions representing some 4 million highly skilled professional and technical workers. Prior to joining DPE in 2001, Mr. Almeida served as president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), a position he held since 1994.
Mr. Almeida received his degree in engineering from Franklin Institute of Boston and was employed by Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation in Boston from 1971 – 1994. During that time, he worked as a Senior Electrical Designer, and was IFPTE’s Local 105 Divisional President, a position he served in until 1994.
Mr. Almeida currently serves on several policy committees of the AFL-CIO including: Vice Chair of the immigration committee; and member of the education and training; legislative/public policy; international affairs; organizing; strategic approaches; and women workers committee. Mr. Almeida is a board member of the Albert Shanker Institute, the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL), the Labor Advisory Board of American Income Life, and the Volunteer Services Advisory Committee at Children’s National Medical Center. He is also past board member of the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) and the Labor Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy to the U.S. Trade Representative.