February 28, 2001

Ms. Jennifer Shishido
Administrator
Hawaii Occupational Safety & Health
Department of Labor & Industrial Relations
830 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Dear Ms. Shishido:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment concerning the federal ergonomics standard. As a member of the HIOSH Advisory Committee representing the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Hawaii Chapter, I am submitting the following comments on behalf of our 145 members.

Our national organization has submitted numerous comments on the proposed federal ergonomics standard. However, they did not comment on the WISHA standard, and we do not believe any of the chapters did either. I am awaiting for written comments from the other Region I chapters (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California), in which Hawaii is a member, to provide valuable information on this important subject.

The general opinion and comment we have heard from a wide variety of ASSE members and impacted stakeholders is that the WISHA standard may not meet the tests of the federal ergonomics standard. It is believed a state-plan has to have a standard either equal to or more stringent than what the federal standard requires. If under a state-plan, Hawaii adopts the WISHA standard, either it may have to significantly revise the proposed WISHA standard or just adopt the federal ergonomics standard in its entirety.

While, we are aware that WISHA is confident their standard will withstand such scrutiny, it might be more appropriate until the OSHA Directorate of Federal-State Operations completes their analysis and publishes the results. There is also the issue of the significant litigation facing OSHA, and how the standard could be changed or interpreted by the courts. OSHA, itself, may not even be able to make a determination on the federal or WISHA standards for several months and perhaps up to a year. It would appear to make more sense from a public policy perspective to wait until HIOSH and its stakeholder groups have a better handle on what will take place in regard to ergonomics and the federal standard, before moving forward.

We are under the impression from talking with our different contacts that any formal approval of the WISHA standard is "on hold" at OSHA. We do not believe there will be any findings for perhaps up to a year. We see the following as potentially a significant concern for the ASSE Hawaii Chapter and our members:

  • HIOSH adopts the WISHA proposal.
  • Our chapter members on behalf of their employers, employees, clients, and associates dedicate significant amounts of occupational safety and health resources to be in compliance with the standard.
  • The WISHA proposal does not withstand the scrutiny of OSHA, potentially resulting in significant changes to existing programs.
  • Precious occupational safety and health resources are lost in order to comply with a standard that may/may not exist.

Furthermore, we have been informed that the Honorable Michael Enzi, United States Senator has announced an action under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to rescind the federal ergonomics standard as written. Until there is a clear understanding of what is going to take place with the pending litigation and the CRA, we feel it is in everyone's best interest to not make any changes to the document at the present time.

From the viewpoint of ASSE Hawaii Chapter, we concur with OSHA in its intent to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders ("WMSDs"). However, to provide comment on the federal ergonomics standard, the WISHA standard, or a combined, hybrid version of the two within two weeks is simply not enough time to respond dutifully on behalf of our members. We suggest and humbly request for an extension of 45 days to allow sufficient time to all stakeholders to review and comment.

Clearly, our members and their respective industries or organizations will be significantly impacted by any version of the ergonomic standard when implemented. After the HIOSH Advisory Committee's February 15, 2001 meeting, we requested of our members to review the comparison of the OSHA ergonomics standard to the WISHA version. We are slowly receiving verbal and written comments.

A few of the interesting comments from them are: "Why are the major stakeholders not able to provide comments directly to HIOSH? They also inquired about the quality of training programs HIOSH will provide to all businesses, especially the small- and medium-sized companies. Furthermore, how is HIOSH planning to promulgate the standard? Will it be handled as a Health Standard or a Safety Standard? With this being considered, a concern about the qualifications of the compliance officers' ability to identify, evaluate, and determine a violation has occurred.

Other comments raised by our chapter members include clarification on how to administer and implement the Quick Fix method, the role of the Responsible Person Concept, "one-case trigger", and the sensitive Work Restriction Program vs. existing HRS §386 - Workers' Compensation. The "Grandfather Clause", use of Third Party audit findings, records confidentiality, the role of the health care professionals, and employee involvement needs further clarification and guidance, especially for the small- and medium-sized companies without a fulltime, safety professional on staff.

In closing, the ASSE Hawaii chapter and its members fully support HIOSH mission to prevent "WMSDs" and occupational injuries and illnesses. We strive to partner with your division to be in the forefront to "be part of the solution" and not the problem to formulate a "win-win" situation. One of the mission objectives for the Society and the primary charge of any safety professional are to provide information to management supported by good science and sound technology. We are not totally confident either standard or a consensus-hybrid standard will fall under the doctrine of "good science and sound technology".

Sincerely,

Allan M. Yokoyama
President
American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)
Hawaii Chapter

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