AMERICAN SOCIETY OF SAFETY ENGINEERS OPPOSE CDC/NIOSH REORGANIZATION PLANS
DES PLAINES, IL (June 17, 2004) - – In a letter sent today to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy G. Thompson the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) voiced opposition to the recently announced Centers for Disease Control reorganization plans concerning the future role of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and suggested it may be time to move NIOSH from HHS to the Department of Labor.
In the letter, ASSE President James ‘Skipper' Kendrick, CSP, noted that ASSE's 30,000 members work in the occupational safety, health and environmental profession and their efforts rely greatly on a scientific foundation of occupational safety and health research that is, in large measure, lead by the NIOSH under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“An independent NIOSH that has all the necessary resources in its control to conduct research that advances occupational safety and health and to communicate that research to the world is of vital interest to our members, their employers and the workers they are committed to protect,” Kendrick said. “Academic resources in safety and health research are too few. Private industry has little incentive to invest in such research on its own. If NIOSH cannot lead this effort, no one else will.”
ASSE objects strongly to the proposed CDC organizational design announced on May 13, 2004, Kendrick wrote, because that design can only result in a dilution of NIOSH's importance in the CDC and, therefore, a dilution of this Administration's commitment to occupational safety and health .
“If these organizational changes proceed as proposed, they may signal an inability on the part of the HHS and CDC to provide the necessary dedication to worker safety and health,” Kendrick noted. “Perhaps, the time has come for Congress to move NIOSH to the Department of Labor, where a continued commitment to these issues of vital importance to the American people can be demonstrated.”
ASSE members are concerned that under the CDC reorganization proposal, NIOSH will go from an agency reporting directly to the head of the CDC to an agency under the direction of interests that have no demonstrated commitment to occupational safety and health issues. ASSE members are also concerned that the design proposes to take away from NIOSH's control important organizational resources that NIOSH uses to fulfill its mission, including its own marketing capabilities, its involvement in budget efforts with Congress, and its oversight of Educational Resource Centers (ERCs).
“This dilution of NIOSH's importance and its capabilities in these areas is unacceptable to ASSE and its members,” Kendrick said. “The proposed design is particularly disappointing because of the encouraging signs of a revitalized commitment to occupational safety and health brought about by the creative, energetic leadership of NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard.
“If part of the reason for this design is to better enable the CDC to activate its resources to address the increasing risk to this nation's security, then diluting NIOSH can only hurt that effort,” Kendrick continued. “NIOSH's work directly impacts more than 130 million American workers. As our members on the front line of defense in those workplaces can tell you, workplaces, to date, have been the only target of terrorist attacks in this nation. Lessening the importance of NIOSH in the organizational design is not the way to strengthen this element of our nation's defense.”
ASSE urges this design proposal be changed now to ensure NIOSH the organizational independence that it needs to carry out its uniquely important mission.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 30,000 members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. Check www.asse.org for a full copy of the letter and for more information on ASSE.
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