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ASSE Opposes Michigan Bill That Threatens Workplace Safety & Health Efforts

Posted in on Fri, Aug 20, 2010

Des Plaines, IL (August 20, 2010) — Southfield, Michigan, resident and president of the oldest safety society, the American Society of Safety Engineers, Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, stated today that ASSE opposes Michigan House Bill 6205 as it is currently written because of its unwarranted intrusion into ASSE members’ ability to practice their profession of protecting people, property and the environment. The bill aims to amend the public health code.

In his letter sent to Michigan Representative Woodrow Stanley, Hill noted that he and the other 700 ASSE members from Detroit, Lansing, Michiana and Western Michigan work every day as safety and health professionals to make sure the hundreds of thousands of workers in Michigan leave work injury and illness free and return home safely to their families.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest safety society and has more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professional members located worldwide committed to protecting people, property and the environment.

“We have spoken with the Michigan sanitarians who are working to advance this bill and understand their intent may not be what this bill does to our members. Nevertheless, this bill would exclude our members and many other respected safety professionals from all work related or even vaguely related to the indefinable term ‘environmental health’,” Hill noted. “Our members already succeed at accomplishing much of the safety, health and environmental work that could fit under this imprecise term without any threat either to public safety or to the interests of Michigan’s business community. Despite this fact, according to Section 18104(1)(c), the practice of environmental health that HB 6205 would be limited to licensed sanitarians consists of virtually anything having to do with the environment and the work our members do to protect workers and workplaces.”

Hill noted that even if one could determine a firm definition of ‘environmental health’, it would not include occupational safety and health as this term has been commonly used throughout industry over the last 100 years, since the October 1911 formation of ASSE.

“Throughout the states and in every industry, Certified Safety Professionals (CSPs) are recognized for their high level of competence in addressing safety risks, Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIHs) for addressing health risks, and Certified Hazard Hazardous Materials Managers (CHMM) for managing hazardous materials,” Hill wrote. “These are each widely accepted, accredited certifications that SH&E professionals achieve after demonstrating high levels of expertise and experience. But this bill, as written, would give sanitarians the exclusive ability to practice in the areas where CSPs, CIHs, CHMMs are already recognized by Michigan’s employers for their leadership and achievements in protecting Michigan workers every day. This result, whether intended or not, is inconsistent to every commonly accepted understanding of professional capabilities to protect workers.”

Sanitarians are not in general qualified to protect workers from workplace safety, health and environmental risks, Hill noted. “We are not aware of any unique training sanitarians have or competency they can demonstrate that would make them uniquely able to do the wide scope of work so that licensure could be supported. No rational basis exists for limiting this work to sanitarians.”

The bill’s attempt to codify commonly used terms in industry like ‘environmental health officer’, ‘environmental health professional’, ‘environmental health specialist’, or ‘registered environmental health specialist’ has no basis. The bill itself notes the limits of sanitarians’ capabilities in seeking to recognize only the National Environmental Health Association’s examination of registered environmental health specialist/registered sanitarian (REHS/RS) for purposes of licensure.

The only appropriate designation the bill should protect is REHS/RS, Hill added. The limit of sanitarians’ scope of practice is also reflected in the bill’s suggested licensing board membership – four sanitarians, one person licensed as a food service establishment, one water well driller, and one health professional. Such a board will not be able to determine the practice of individuals engaged in environmental practice, occupational safety and health or hazardous materials management.

Hill added that while ASSE strongly oppose HB 6205, ASSE is not opposed to sanitarians achieving the recognition they seek from the legislature if their practice can be defined in a way that does not impact ASSE members or other SH&E professionals. Hill looks forward to working with Representative Stanley on the bill and other activities that would continue to enhance workplace safety and health for all.

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.
 
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