John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, introduced Michaels by saying OSHA should not be allowed to become a "bargaining chip" in the deficit debate.
"The mission, of course, is never complete," he said, "but it is being fulfilled."
Michaels ended his short overview of OSHA's history by updating the audience on the challenges still facing the agency: a slow regulatory process, insufficient fines, too few inspectors and too many workers who still don't know their rights or feel they can defend them without retribution.
"The creators of the OSHA law intended to ensure that workers have an important role in ensuring safe working conditions," Michaels said. "But sadly, the whistle-blower language in the OSHA law is old, and it's weak."
He announced that OSHA will soon be proposing new standards for the creation of a new prevention process to help employers proactively identify workplace hazards, based on the experience of 15 states. And he announced that next week, the administration will commemorate workers who died on the job with a tree planted in front of the Department of Labor's Constitution Avenue headquarters.