Diane M. Hurns
(847) 768-3413


      DES PLAINES, IL (November 21, 2000) - In comments sent today to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Director Dr. Carol Jones, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) questioned the need for a new rule involving Hazard Communications, the MSHA HazCom Interim Final Rule (30 CFR Part 47, RIN 1219-AA47), published in the October 3, 2000, Federal Register. ASSE also questioned the absence of recognizing existing safety standards and initiatives that already address this issue worldwide and the exclusion of safety professionals in some areas of the overall rule.

     "ASSE agrees that there is a major need to protect workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals," ASSE President Samuel J. Gualardo said in the letter sent today. "We have historically been a supporter of the direction mandated in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). However, just days before MSHA published its HazCom standard, another federal mining standard addressing similar issues went into effect. Many ASSE members from the mining industry have questioned whether this proposed rule is superfluous."

     Currently, MSHA has several standards that parallel the requirements extant in the new HazCom standard, including mandatory training for miners and contractors; and the metal/nonmetal mining safety standards published at 30 CFR 56/57.16004 (containers for hazardous materials), 56/57.20011 (barricades and warning signs), and 56/57.20012 (labeling of toxic materials). In particular, the new Part 46 training rule, covering 10,000 mines in the surface nonmetal mining sector, just took effect on October 2, 2000 - the day before MSHA published its HazCom standard - and it is premature to assume that it cannot be effective in preventing the types of injuries described in the HazCom rule's preamble.

     "While ASSE strongly supports the tenets of hazard communication, we are also concerned that MSHA's interim final rule may not be appropriate at this time," Gualardo continued. "It may make sense for MSHA to withdraw this rule in the short-term, in order to consider and take appropriate action in light of the Global Harmonization System (GHS) initiative. MSHA should be part of this international initiative which is under the stewardship of OSHA and has participation from agencies such as EPA, FDA, and others."

     ASSE believes that by the time MSHA's new standard is promulgated, litigated, implemented, and accepted by the mining community, the GHS initiative will already require additional and significant changes in the newly developed mining industry programs. This becomes even more of a major factor if the GHS initiative is tied to different International Organization for Standardization (ISO) proposals, an issue under consideration.

     "Another important concern is that safety professionals will be responsible for implementing the MSHA rule as well as any other subsequent HazCom rules and standards, and that these could be inconsistent with one another," Gualardo said. "Confusion and unnecessary costs could result, and the possibility of compromising the safety of the workers."

     With MSHA and OSHA both under the U.S. Department of Labor, ASSE is recommending that the agencies develop one comprehensive HazCom document. ASSE also recommends that the GHS issue be reported in the Federal Register along with formal findings, potential timelines, implementation costs, and potential interaction with other organizations.

     "The GHS initiative is a crucial aspect of hazard communication and MSHA cannot ignore it," Gualardo continued.

     ASSE also questioned why MSHA overlooked several safety standards that directly pertain to this issue, which were left out of the published rule. These standards include the existing American National Standard Z535 series; the existing voluntary national consensus standards required by OMB A-119 and Public Law 104-113; and the existing American National Standard, ANSI Z-400.1-1993 Hazardous Industrial Chemicals - Material Safety Data Sheets.

"ASSE calls on MSHA to support the recognition of applicable voluntary national consensus standards, because such utilization will be of increased importance to the U.S. as it moves towards a global economy," Gualardo continued. "National consensus standards reflect the opinions of the safety, health and environmental professionals who work at all levels of the public and private sectors in technology development, manufacturing, training, financial analysis, personnel, academia as well as insight from the final end user. This balanced insight enables standards to be crafted in a way which not only benefits and protects users of the standard, but also furthers the interests of the businesses which have been created to meet user demand."

    ASSE also strongly objects to MSHA's inclusion of industrial hygienists, while excluding safety professionals, from the definition of a Health Professional (Table 47.91) in the rule. Safety professionals must be included because they serve as consultants to mining companies, labor organizations and health facilities which could be impacted by the rule. MSHA makes the generalization that a safety professional will never need such information because he/she is on site and thus will already have access to it.

     "MSHA misses the point that the safety professional may not be on staff and consequently would need access to information in the same manner as that given to industrial hygienists and the other safety and health-related disciplines," Gualardo said. "We suggest that MSHA recognize safety professionals registered with the ASSE's National Registry as being competent to participate in the trade secrets aspects of any HazCom Standard. We think such recognition will enhance safety professional competence and can serve as a model for sound future public policy."

     In summary, Gualardo noted that ASSE looks forward to working with MSHA on this issue in its ongoing efforts to increase workplace safety in the U.S. and throughout the world.

     Founded in 1911, ASSE is the world's largest and oldest professional safety organization representing 33,000 safety professionals which include Certified Safety Professionals, Certified Industrial Hygienists, Professional Engineers, Ergonomists, Academicians, Fire Protection Engineers, System Safety Experts, Health Professionals, and other disciplines, skills, and backgrounds. ASSE is committed to protecting people, property, and the environment.

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