March 2, 1999

The Honorable Michael B. Enzi, U.S. Senator
Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Safety, and Training
SR-290 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-5004

ASSE STATEMENT ON THE SAFE Act (S.385)

Chairman Enzi,

The American Society of Safety Engineers would like to thank you for the consideration that you and your professional staff have given to our positions in the past. ASSE maintains its 10/7/97 SAFEAct position statement, (Attachment #1). However, we are also submitting an additional position on S.385 as we have new information which should augment additional support for the use of qualified consultants in a voluntary third party safety and health audit and evaluation program.

SECTION 3 - THIRD PARTY CONSULTATION PROGRAM
The Society continues its support of the creation of a third party consultation services program. We believe that the time has come for federal agencies to work on a closer basis with the private sector, and be able to draw upon their expertise. We have continued to research the issue and have attempted to gather additional information on the third party concept in order to address the issues of concern which were brought up in 1997. The following were the key issues of concern brought up in 1997 on the legislation which we identified:

  • The integrity and honesty of those consultants performing the audits and evaluations.
  • The concern was that many consultants (ASSE members) could be easily bought off for financial gain. Employers would use their position of selecting a consultant as financial leverage against a consultant to force him/her to provide a positive consultant report.
  • Private sector safety and health consultants did not have the overall level of competence needed to conduct third party safety and health evaluations.
In order to answer these concerns, ASSE has been involved in an unprecedented data/information gathering initiative. We have put together a survey (Attachment #2) and are currently distributing it to our membership of almost 33,000 members. In addition, we circulated the survey to our ASSE Consultants Division (2,300 members) as a control group, and to another 2,300 safety and health professionals through "Safety Net" which is an electronic safety and health messaging system maintained by the University of Vermont. We have received in excess of 100 replies already, and our hope is that we will eventually have a return of more than 1,000 surveys. We believe the survey will provide some of the greatly needed information on this issue. While it would be premature to release data based findings, it would be appropriate to report some of the comments and overall feelings obtained thus far and how they relate to the need for a third party consultation program.

Section 8[A] - Purpose
Most of the comments we received thus far have been very supportive of a third party consultation program, and would support the basic concept that the complexity of regulations on many occasions requires the use of a well-trained safety and health consultant. There were several other comments that with new technologies there will be an even greater need in the future for private sector organizations to be able to call on the expertise of consultants. This legislation is an efficient/effective approach to the future realities of the workplace and the capabilities of government agencies such as OSHA.

Section 8[B] - Establishment of Program
ASSE gives its endorsement to the way qualifications of consultants are addressed. The administrative mechanisms for credentialling/certifying safety and health professionals have been in place for decades in the private sector. To assure the health and safety of the American workforce, the training, education, and experience warranted by these accredited certifying boards requires private sector certification of the most rigorous nature. The SAFEAct recognizes that individuals qualified to perform third party consultation services should earn their credentials from nationally recognized organizations which in turn are accredited by nationally recognized accrediting bodies. This language will help ensure high levels of quality in the program. Our recommendation is that the legislative history in the report language specify that these accreditation bodies be either the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Board (CESB) and/or the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

(4) Limitation Based on Expertise
ASSE learned that while many of the survey comments support the use of third party auditors and evaluators, there is concern that a consultant should perform only in areas of his/her competence. During 1997, this was an issue of concern, and it also appears to be of significance to many safety professionals. It is for that reason that we support the addition of this section to the legislation. We maintain that it greatly strengthens the integrity and reliability of the third party system. ASSE agrees that there is a need to ensure that consultants only perform in areas where he/she is competent. However, we would like to point out that on many occasions there could be a team of consultants involved in the evaluation to address the different areas/applications on a worksite.

(d) Disciplinary Actions
In the view of ASSE, the issue of ethics of consultants behaving in an honorable manner became the main concern with the third party concept during the debate in 1997. We were somewhat disappointed during this debate to see what pretty much became an attack on the integrity and honesty of safety professionals, including many ASSE members. Our members have through membership acceptance sworn adherence to the ASSE Code of Professional Conduct, and our belief is that there will be very few instances of such failures. However, to ensure that the integrity of the program is maintained, ASSE supports significant disciplinary action being taken against those who do not abide by the requirements of the program.

In our survey we asked several questions on the issue of ethics and integrity, and the result was interesting in that it mirrors the position ASSE took in 1997. The safety profession like all other professions, (medical, accounting, law, etc…) is a microcosm of our Society. We acknowledge that there will be concerns with the behavior of some consultants, however, such instances will be rare or infrequent at best. If we were to take the opposing view to an extreme, the country should also federalize virtually every profession in the United States today. The bottom line is that no system is perfect, but in this situation the positives far outweigh the negatives.

ASSE was greatly puzzled in 1997 why there appeared to be a presumption that an individual working in government would be more inclined to behave in a reputable manner than those in the private sector. Our intent is not to get into a comparison of the ethics history of the private and public sectors. However, we maintain that working as a private sector consultant is not an indicator of ingrained dishonesty or evidence of a sinister employer/consultant relationship. Most of the safety professionals and consultants responding to the survey commented that it would be a very imprudent act to circumvent the law for what would basically be minor financial benefit. If a consultant were to go against the tenets of the SAFEAct they would be risking prosecution by the federal government, state prosecution, lost of certification/licensure, civil court action, and the loss of reputation and livelihood. It is evident that almost all consultants participating in such a program would be an asset to employers, employees, government, and the country. Their level of integrity would be an overall enhancement to safety and health in the workplace. We have not seen anything which would lead us to believe otherwise.

[c] Safety and Health Registry
ASSE supports the intent of the Registry, but suggests that the following amendment be considered:
(c) SAFETY AND HEALTH REGISTRY- The Secretary shall develop and maintain a registry which includes all consultants that are qualified under the program under subsection (b)(1) to provide the consultation services described in subsection (b) and shall publish and make such registry readily available to the general public. The Secretary shall also rely upon states having such registries or other equivalent registries to maintain an acceptable level of qualified consultants.

We make this suggestion since there are private sector organizations maintaining registries which could be used by OSHA. ASSE has worked with the concept of a registry since 1990, which precedes the SAFEAct. On February 4, 1998 we announced the release of the National Registry of Safety Professionals. ASSE has rolled out this new program, and all safety professionals regardless of ASSE membership status are eligible to participate. The registry is an official record where individuals are enrolled at a fee and their qualifications/credentials are filed for later verification by a registering authority or association. The criteria for selection is based on the draft American National Standard, Z590 Levels of Criteria and Competence in the Safety Profession. The National Registry of Safety Professionals creates the means and methodology whereby any qualified safety professional or other registrant meeting the criteria can elect to be listed in the Registry. Of additional importance is the fact that the Registry has the capability to be categorized by state and areas of expertise and would enable agencies such as OSHA to ensure that safety professionals and other registrants could perform credible safety and health audits and evaluations in an efficient/effective manner. We have enclosed a copy of the National Registry of Safety Professionals and Other Registrants, (Attachment #3). The level of quality in this program would certainly be of significant assistance in meeting the intent of the SAFEAct.

SEC. 4. Establishment of Special Advisory Committee
ASSE continues to maintain its 1997 position on the Special Advisory Committee, but would like to reemphasize its recommendation that appointment to the Advisory Committee be based on an individual's professional background and not just solely education. We believe it is important that the importance of an appointee's overall background be considered and not just the level of education attainment. As a supplement to our 10/7/97 comment regarding make-up of the committee, we suggest that another model worth considering might be that of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH). NACOSH has a balanced representation of business, labor, and the professional societies/organizations. We suggest that a representative from a professional society/organization should serve as chair of the committee.

CONCLUSION
We hope that the information we have provided will benefit you during the legislative process. ASSE would also like to keep you, the subcommittee members, and staff informed of the final survey results which could be used during your deliberations. We appreciate your thoughtful attention to this matter. If you have any questions or issues which you would like to address, please feel free to contact the Society at 847/699-2929.

Sincerely Yours,

Fred F. Fleming, CSP, OHST
Society President, 1998-1999

TF/TRF/CORRS1132
encl.


     

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