OF SAFETY ENGINEERS
1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187
May 22, 2006
The Honorable Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Department of Labor 200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Assistant Secretary Foulke:
On behalf of the 30,000 member safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), congratulations for taking on the responsibility for leading the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). ASSE and its members pledge to help fulfill OSHA’s promise to save lives, lower the number of injuries and lessen the health risks our nation’s workers now experience.
As you begin leading OSHA’s efforts, we urge you to consider the following thoughts ASSE has on the current activities of OSHA and the challenges the agency faces as it moves into the future:
ASSE/OSHA Alliance – ASSE greatly appreciates the relationship that has grown from the ASSE/OSHA Alliance, which we are scheduled to renew at the ASSE Professional Development Conference (PDC) in Seattle, Washington. Our goal for the Alliance is to build a bridge between OSHA and the knowledge and expertise of our members. The Alliance gives our members an opportunity to share their expertise on
ergonomics, youth worker safety, design for safety, transportation, and Hispanic worker issues, to name just a few areas of common interest. On ASSE’s part, we greatly appreciates the willingness of OSHA staff at the highest levels of the Agency to involve themselves in the safety and health profession, as evidenced by OSHA’s impressive breadth of involvement in this year’s PDC. The Alliance creates opportunities for communications and sharing of ideas benefiting the profession of safety and health in ways that are difficult to measure but are fully understood by our members.
Global Harmonization (GHS) – ASSE looks forward to OSHA’s expected rulemaking on global harmonization of US hazard communications and urges you to do whatever is possible to ensure the rulemaking is published as soon as possible. The international harmonization of hazard communications is rapidly becoming a competitiveness issue for more and more U.S. companies. OSHA staff needs to be commended for its international leadership in this movement towards uniformity. The rightful next step for OSHA is to move forward the pending rulemaking on GHS with a thoughtful but eager commitment to continuing U.S. leadership in GHS.
PELs – Despite the best efforts of Representative Norwood in recent years to encourage a cooperative effort on updating permissible exposure limits (PELs), nothing has come to fruition. Now, OSHA is under criticism for reliance on threshold limit values (TLVs) not reached through a consensus process, a concern ASSE shares. The time is long overdue for OSHA to take a leadership role in addressing the difficult process of updating exposure limits. ASSE’s position is that negotiated rulemaking should be used to encourage a consensus process under OSHA’s leadership. ASSE will be reaching out to Congressional leaders to encourage such a process to begin as soon as possible. We hope OSHA will accept the leadership role only it can fulfill in advancing this issue.
Enforcement – ASSE shares the concern many have voiced that OSHA’s enforcement of both civil and criminal penalties for workplace safety and health violations are not seen as being effective enough in preventing workplace deaths, injuries and illnesses. OSHA’s ongoing commitment to enforcement has not wavered, but we fear that the positives are often lost in the lack of adequate resources, bureaucratic patterns of doing business, and limits in enforcement tools allowed OSHA. ASSE encourages you to include in your agenda for the Agency a thorough examination of OSHA’s enforcement practices to ensure that resources are being used to address the worst offenders and violations that truly cost lives and cause injuries and that OSHA remains committed to making sure that the greatest workplace risks are met with the highest penalties.
Nanotechnology – From all reports, nanotechnology will accelerate the challenges of recognizing, evaluating and controlling safety and health risks in U.S. workplaces. While our knowledge about those risks does not yet support enforcement measures, ASSE urges OSHA to reach out to employers and workers with guidelines and other opportunities to help them keep abreast of rapidly expanding research on such risks. NIOSH has done an excellent job of encouraging the direction of research in nanotechnology and keeping the safety and health community informed. OSHA needs to work hand-in-hand with NIOSH to ensure that any risks and controls learned can be quickly disseminated and OSHA can be prepared to move forward with protection standards if and when they become necessary.
Employer Payment for PPE –We urge you to move forward as soon as possible. OSHA’s rulemaking on employer payment for personal protection equipment. Except for a few minor points, the rulemaking proposed by OSHA was acceptable to ASSE. We see no insurmountable reason why this standard has not moved forward and urge you to ensure that it does.
Reactive Chemicals – Another important safety and health issue that remains largely unresolved within OSHA is the promotion of a more proactive approach towards controlling reactive chemicals. ASSE encourages you to reach out to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazards Investigation Board and other interested organizations to pursue sensible and effective guidance materials for employers and employees on the particular risks associated with reactive chemicals.
Third Party Consultation Program – ASSE supports provisions introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Michael B. Enzi that would allow third party safety audits of companies. Such audits, conducted under strict requirements to ensure professionalism, would serve as still another opportunity for small and medium-sized employers to improve the safety and health of their workplaces. We want to assure OSHA that we would not support such a program if we believed it would jeopardize the excellent capabilities of existing federal or state consultation programs. Too many employers do not reach out for assistance at all not to attempt to find new ways of reaching out to them, as this program would.
Injury and Illness Prevention Program – For many years, the establishment of an in injury and illness prevention program standard by OSHA has been at the top of ASSE’s agenda for federal regulatory action. Unfortunately, it was removed from OSHA’s regulatory agenda in recent years. Requiring employers to set a framework for how they will address workplace safety and health risks in their workplaces has always been a missing key element of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. We urge you to reexamine the standard and renew OSHA’s commitment to this idea.
Standards – ASSE supports OSHA's ongoing standards improvement project and encourages you to find resources to accelerate this process. ASSE itself is the Secretariat of eight ANSI safety and health consensus standards and repeatedly encourages OSHA to see where these standards can help in advancing OSHA’s own standards. Use of such standards, like ANSI/ASSE Z117 (confined space standard) and ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 (safety training) can only help improve protections of workers and expedite rulemaking activities while reflecting the current technology and industry best practices.
Homeland Security Activities - ASSE hopes the lessons learned following the Katrina disaster will help ensure that OSHA’s resources to address safety and health of rescue and cleanup workers will be immediately put into effect should this nation face another natural or terrorist disaster. Safety and health risks to workers cannot add to the deaths, injuries and illnesses resulting from such a disaster.
Transportation – As you well know, motor vehicle accidents are the largest cause of workplace deaths. OSHA, the Department of Transportation and others have done much to address this issue, yet the risk remains. ASSE encourages OSHA to keep trying creative ways to address this issue and offers the expertise and knowledge of our members to help find new ways to stop this unnecessary loss of life. We also hopes that OSHA can find ways to incorporate into its own transportation activities and communications the ANSI Z15.1 standard Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operation, which provides guidelines for developing a motor vehicle safety program for employers with one vehicle or a fleet of hundreds. ASSE is the Secretariat for Z15.1.
OSHA Staff Safety/Health Professional Certifications – Under Assistant Secretary Henshaw’s leadership, we understand that the number of OSHA staff who achieved professional safety and health certifications increased significantly. ASSE believes it is imperative that OSHA inspectors and other staff be encouraged to pursue safety and health professional education to improve continually their understanding of workplace safety and health. This goal is achievable through the voluntary professional certifications offered by accredited certification organizations like the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH). While the recent advancement in certifications is positive, and we urge you to ensure that it continues, OSHA also needs to support employees who have achieved certification by funding their professional development opportunities, as private industry readily does. This kind of investment in education will improve the effectiveness of OSHA staff in enforcing safety and health standards and enhance their professional standing in the safety and health community.
ASSE appreciates your commitment to public service and advancing occupational safety and health by accepting leadership of OSHA. Please know that ASSE and its members are more than willing to do our part in helping OSHA fulfill its mission of saving lives and protecting the American workforce.
Jack H. Dobson, Jr., CSP