November 6, 2000
SAFETY AND HEALTH RELATED LEGISLATION
SUMMER AND FALL, 2000
ASSE serves as Secretariat of seven (7) American National Standards Institute Committees (ANSI) developing safety and health standards which are used by private sector organizations as well as state/Federal governmental agencies such as MSHA, OSHA, etc... ASSE members also sit on over forty (40) additional standards development committees and the Society sponsors educational sessions on standards development. The Society also has twelve (12) technical divisions consisting of: Construction, Consultants, Engineering, Environmental, Health Care, Industrial Hygiene, International, Management, Public Sector, Risk Management and Insurance, Mining, and Transportation. The ASSE members included in these divisions are leaders in their field with the knowledge and expertise needed to move safety and health forward on a global level.
ASSE Core Principles
In line with one of its main missions to enhance sound legislation and public policy, the Society has great interest in national/state safety and health legislation. In fact, the Society has attempted to offer a non-partisan analysis of any legislation which affects safety and health. To this end, we have enclosed our statements addressing the following pieces of legislation:
The view of the Society is that H.R.1899 would benefit health care workers in preventing needle stick injuries. We know from the members of our Health Care Division that needle stick injuries is a significant exposure in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other medical facilities. Our one request for clarification on this legislation is if government operated medical facilities (e.g. Veterans Administration), would be required to follow the tenets of the proposed legislation.
ASSE has historically taken the following positions on these types of issues:
When appropriate, there is no reason why the Secretary cannot issue
a warning instead of a citation. Such action of course, would depend
on the situation and the circumstances revolving around it.
Reduced penalties for safety and health violations under some circumstances
are a possibility worthy of consideration, and ASSE maintains that the
President Clinton reinvention criteria strikes a reasonable balance
between the interests of both employees and employers.
When appropriate, there is no reason why the Secretary cannot issue a warning instead of a citation. Such action of course, would depend on the situation and the circumstances revolving around it.
Reduced penalties for safety and health violations under some circumstances are a possibility worthy of consideration, and ASSE maintains that the President Clinton reinvention criteria strikes a reasonable balance between the interests of both employees and employers.
The Society understands the concepts of the legislation, recognizes this issue has been of long-term interest to a variety of stakeholders, and believes that a reasonable balance between accountability and responsibility still needs to be maintained. This bill appears to be an effort to codify the existing practices of OSHA, and is a good faith effort to retain the balance we believe is important to safeguard the national focus on occupational safety and health. The main concern we have with this legislation is what is considered to be reasonable diligence [Section Employee Accountability, (d)]. Our key concern here is that many safety and health hazards may develop from technology and engineering. It is important to mention in the report language of the bill that reasonable diligence should only be a defense if the employer used the services of a qualified safety professional to evaluate the subject hazards. The language of the bill needs to specify that regardless of whether the employer should have been aware of the hazards with reasonable diligence, what it is identified, it must be corrected. In short, the legislation should not be used to protect employers who play ostrich, meaning they hide their head in the sand when addressing occupational safety and health issues.
The language of Section (3)(e) is also worthy of comment. Our only concern with this language is that alternative methods need to be specified as engineering or administrative controls if that is what is stated in the standard or regulation. It would be inappropriate to substitute personal protective equipment for engineering controls required in a standard. We do not believe this is the intent of the legislation, but believe it could be interpreted in this manner by those not aware of federal safety and health standards. Perhaps this could be addressed through report language clarifying the issue. Finally, we see this language as having great potential in increasing the use of voluntary national consensus standards by the private sector. ASSE has long been supportive of the use of voluntary national consensus standards, and the language proposed in this legislation could encourage more utilization of cutting edge standards.
The Society has not yet taken a position on the issue of multi-employer worksites. We have an understanding of the issue, and recognize the issues the legislation is trying to address. Members of our Construction Division have pointed out that the issue of the multi-employer work site is one of the most significant safety and health concerns in their industry. Does this legislation adequately address this issue? It is difficult to say since there is not an easy answer to the question. We see a double-edged sword with this issue. Our position on this bill is similar to our views on H.R.5038. We agree it is not correct under some circumstances for OSHA to cite and fine and the employer for safety and health hazards which appear to be outside of its control. On the other hand, there is a need to retain the balance, to keep the national focus on occupational safety and health. Once again, the legislation should not be used to protect employers who play ostrich, meaning they hide their head in the sand when addressing occupational safety and health issues.
We thank you for your attention to this matter, and if there are any questions or concerns with these positions please feel free to contact the Society. Sincerely,
Samuel J. Gualardo, CSP
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