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ASSE Government Affairs Priorities for 2013

Posted in on Fri, Jan 18, 2013

ASSE members should be aware that 2013 might very well prove to be an historic year for occupational safety and health professionals.  Although Labor Secretary Solis has resigned, it is expected that Dr. David Michaels will remain as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.  If, under his continued leadership, OSHA begins to lay out its proposal for an injury and illness prevention plan (I2P2) standard, ASSE and its members will be active participants in a long rulemaking process that has the potential of changing the paradigm for how this nation regulates occupational safety and health.

At its best, an I2P2 standard could move OSHA’s efforts away from prescriptive, too often nit-picking oversight to a risk-based approach that, as our members experience in the United Kingdom and other countries, encourages a far more cooperative effort at oversight focusing first on the most important safety and health risks in each workplace.  A risk-based regulatory approach is consistent with how ASSE’s members and the best and most progressive employers currently manage workplace risks.

At its worst, an I2P2 standard that does not significantly move OSHA towards a risk-based regulatory approach could merely mean one more check box of concern for employers in case OSHA shows up at their door.  Chances are the ultimate proposal for a standard may fall somewhere in the middle of this hope and this fear.

Consistent with ASSE’s support of the idea of an I2P2 standard set in 1998, the Government Affairs Committee (GAC) established a set of principles for engaging OSHA and the occupational safety and health community in any I2P2 rulemaking.  The principles were shared with Assistant Secretary for OSHA David Michaels in December2010 when the idea of a standard was first raised.  Now, the GAC is prepared to weigh those principles against an OSHA proposal, keeping in mind the practical interests of ASSE members who are the professionals employers will look towards for their long-standing expertise in developing and implementing workable, meaningful I2P2s.

Of course, an I2P2 standard is not the only regulatory issue expected in 2013.  As Adele Abrams explains below in this GA Update, OSHA has proposed an aggressive  regulatory agenda.  The GAC will be reaching out to members of ASSE’s practice specialties and others for their expertise in addressing these regulatory issues.  The GAC needs your help and guidance on these important matters, so please watch for that opportunity to contribute.  The Committee also will continue to monitor OSHA’s significantly increased administrative attention to enforcement, which was laid out in a FederalOSHA’s Increased Focus on Enforcement prepared for the benefit of ASSE members.

What Congress will do is questionable.  Unfortunately, safety, like many other important national issues, is entangled in the political process.  In the near term, attention in Washington, DC, will continue to focus on the ongoing budget fight, through which ASSE will continue its strong support for federal safety and health agencies in that process.  With a divided Congress of Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, little safety and health legislation is expected to move forward.  Mine safety reform is always possible, especially if another Sago-like disaster occurs.  The most pointed attention to safety and health issues will most likely occur in OSHA oversight hearings in the House.  In fact, perhaps the lack of attention to occupational safety and health in Congress will be the biggest concern of 2013.

Proactively, the GAC will continue to share among decision-makers its draft OSHAct reform draft bill that brings together the many ideas for sensible, bipartisan federal regulatory reform ASSE members have brought to Washington, DC, since the beginning of ASSE’s involvement in government affairs.  The GAC is also intent on increasing efforts to share with government decision leaders and others the value of safety to the economic vitality of this nation’s employers.  The best employers where our members typically work understand this already.  How this message can best reach the unreachable employers who refuse or fail or simply do not have the resources or time to understand safety’s value seems to the GAC a key question that would well serve ASSE, OSHA, NIOSH and the entire occupational safety and health community to understand much better than we do.

In addition, the GAC is prepared to support efforts of members who want to advance the interests of safety, the profession and ASSE at the state level.  We are already engaged in 2013 with members involved in advancing distracted driving and addressing concerns in asbestos abatement rulemaking.  See our page on Getting Involved for information on how you can become personally involved in ASSE government affairs.

Please join us in this important and perhaps game-changing work.  A conversation about these and other issues is ongoing in the LinkedInASSE Government Affairs Group.  Check out ASSE’s Government Affairs page for the latest activities.  Sign up for ASSE’s Government Affairs Update by emailing dheidorn@asse.org.  Or always feel free to contact Jim Thornton, Chair of the GAC, at James.Thornton@hii-co.com or Dave Heidorn, Manager of Government Affairs and Policy, at dheidorn@asse.org to share your thoughts.

On behalf of the Government Affairs Committee:

Jim Thornton, Chair, Virginia

Bob Andrews, North Carolina

Gene Barfield, Louisiana

Ernie Harper, Idaho

Mike Thompson, Illinois

Cindy Ross, New York

Ron Sokol, Texas

Michael Woods, Oregon

Kathy Seabrook, Connecticut (ex officio)

Mike Neason, Kentucky (ex officio)

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ASSE is committed to ensuring that any decision by federal or state government impacting the safety, health and environment of the workplace is based on good science and sound technology.

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