House to question OSHA chief on worker safety surrounding Gulf spill

David Michaels, head of the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), will testify before the House labor committee next Wednesday on worker safety issues related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the panel announced on Thursday.

The decision makes sense: OSHA is monitoring the health and safety of the crews cleaning the Gulf Coast of the spewing oil. But that's not all. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who chairs the House labor panel, is also interested in examining whether workplace safety on offshore rigs like the Deepwater Horizon is currently in the hands of the folks best equipped to monitor it.

Under the current arrangement, offshore worker safety is the joint responsibility of the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service (MMS), a branch of the Interior Department. But a number of workers advocates contend that those agencies are too busy with other responsibilities to put the necessary energy into health and safety. OSHA, they say, which focuses exclusively on those issues, is the better agency for the job.

Michaels is the only witness so far to be announced.