AMERICAN SOCIETY
OF SAFETY ENGINEERS

1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187
847.699.2929
FAX 847.296.3769
www.asse.org

The Honorable Michael B. Enzi
Chairman
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
United States Senate
SD-428 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510-6300

RE:         Administration Appointments to Lead OSHA and MSHA

Dear Chairman Enzi:

The 30,000 member safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) are committed to making sure that federal occupational safety and health agencies are fully capable of carrying out their responsibilities for protecting this nation's workers from occupational safety and health risks.  When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are given the necessary resources and appropriate leadership to carry out their responsibilities, our members are better able to do their work in protecting workers and, most importantly, workers better receive the protections they deserve. 

In August last year, ASSE shared with the President, you and other Congressional leaders our concern that the Assistant Secretary of Labor positions at both OSHA and MSHA had remained unfilled for
nearly eight months.  Both agencies are staffed with capable and dedicated professionals.  But, in any organization, the people who
carry out day-to-day responsibilities deserve to know the future direction that only affirmed leadership can provide.

Therefore, ASSE is pleased that the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions is now able to examine candidates to lead OSHA and MSHA and offers our support to the nominees, Ed Foulke as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA and Richard Stickler as Assistant Secretary of Labor for MSHA.

Both Mr. Foulke and Mr. Stickler have had successful careers engaged in safety and health issues.  Both have led significant organizations that deal with safety and health.  Mr. Foulke headed the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, experience that will prove beneficial in managing the detailed challenges facing OSHA in moving forward enforcement efforts and its regulatory agenda.  Mr. Stickler led the Pennsylvania Bureau of Deep Mines, which ASSE hopes can provide practical direction in MSHA's response to the heightened attention mine safety is now receiving.

ASSE offers the expertise and experience of its members both to Mr. Foulke and Mr. Stickler for the challenges that they will face if their nominations are approved.  Both are assuming responsibility for providing direction for a period of time that could be less than three years.  We would urge both to look to build on the model for enforcement and cooperation led by John Henshaw during his time heading OSHA.  Mr. Henshaw succeeded in building a culture of cooperation and outreach at OSHA while maintaining OSHA's enforcement capabilities. 

Although criticized by some, ASSE views Mr. Henshaw's approach as similar to the approach our members take when they help manage safety and health risks on worksites.  In an effective safety and health plan, their responsibility is to enforce a company's safety standards.  They know that good business and bottom-line results are driven by an effective safety program that minimizes injuries and illnesses.  Yet, if enforcing standards was the only tool our members used, the best safety and health protections could not be achieved.  People do not respond simply to enforcement.  So, SH&E professionals also educate both employees and their employers and encourage and reward those whose lives they want to help protect.  Mr. Henshaw understood this multifaceted role because he was an SH&E professional himself with a distinguished career in safety and health management and with having achieved the highest safety and health professional designations.  His success was in expanding the tools OSHA has to advance occupational safety and health. 

Our hope is that OSHA and MSHA continue to build on the variety of its capabilities without losing sight of the priority of enforcing this nation's safety standards.  As regulatory agencies responsible for enforcement, both OSHA and MSHA have a duty to advance this nation's occupational safety and health standards when needed and reasonably drawn to address known risks.  Despite some difficult determinations that will have to be made, OSHA needs to provide national leadership in finding better ways to manage the risks of crystalline silica, lead in construction, assigned protection factors, employer payment for personal protection equipment, hearing conservation for construction workers and other issues for which the safety and health community seeks agreement in direction.  MSHA needs to address asbestos in mining, substance abuse prevention, and diesel particulate matter in mines.  OSHA also needs to provide leadership in helping this nation's businesses maintain their competitiveness by moving forward as soon as possible on global harmonization of hazard communications and by working now on the protections that may be needed to address risks from nanotechnology, which offers a unique opportunity to address risks before they happen.

The leadership opportunities for Mr. Foulke and Mr. Stickler are many.  As they begin to address those opportunities, we urge them to keep in mind that ASSE's 30,000 members have expertise and experience in every industry and across the spectrum of safety and health issues that has already proven useful in our alliance relationships with OSHA and MSHA.   

If ASSE can be of any assistance to the Committee as it considers these nominations, we ask that you would call on us.  Our hope is that the Committee's deliberations will be thoughtful but speedy given the length of time the leadership positions at these vitally important agencies have remained unfilled.

Sincerely,

 

Jack H. Dobson, Jr., CSP
President

 cc:  The Honorable Edward M. Kennedy
        Ranking Minority Member