November 6, 2000
ASSE POSITIONS ON
SAFETY AND HEALTH RELATED LEGISLATION

SUMMER AND FALL, 2000

Introduction
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), is the oldest and largest society of safety professionals in the world. Founded in 1911, ASSE represents almost 33,000 dedicated safety professionals. Within the ASSE membership are Certified Safety Professionals, Certified Industrial Hygienists, Professional Engineers, ergonomists, academicians, fire protection engineers, system safety experts, health professionals, and an impressive collection of other disciplines, skills, and backgrounds. We pride ourselves on our dedication to excellence, expertise, and commitment to the protection of people, property, and environment on a world?wide basis.

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
Since the purpose of this statement is to address safety and health related issues, we believe it is appropriate to restate our core principles regarding OSHA, NIOSH, and other safety and health regulatory agencies:

  • ASSE supports safety and health agencies such as OSHA and NIOSH, and believes these organizations help maintain a national focus on the importance of occupational safety and health.
  • The Society believes that compliance is but one facet of an effective/efficient safety and health program.
  • The ASSE encourages taking the size and the nature of an employer's business into account when scheduling routine inspections, but all occupational safety and health laws should be enforceable regardless of the size of the employer.
  • 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 some 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 the employees and employers.
  • ASSE endorses the view that setting numerical goals for inspections and citations have actually worked against the safety and health of the American workplace, and that OSHA's resources should be focused on the causes of workplace injuries/fatalities.
  • The ASSE supports permitting employers to keep internal company audits, reviews, documents, and personal records confidential under most circumstances. This approach will encourage employers to take proactive measures to keep their workplaces safe and healthful.
  • The ASSE supports Employer Defenses, as we believe that "employee conduct/employer good faith efforts" should be considered by OSHA when citing or fining. If management has done all that can be reasonably expected from a legal and moral perspective, then ASSE believes that it is counterproductive for OSHA to issue a citation or fine if an employee caused the incident by not following procedures, policies, or utilizing required equipment.
  • ASSE encourages the codification and recognition of the "Voluntary Protection Program". It has shown itself to be an excellent tool to reduce workplace injuries/fatalities. The criteria to be accepted into the program is stringent, and we believe it provides a good balance between both the employers and employees.
  • During this time of change, it is necessary for OSHA to look to the private sector for assistance. ASSE reaffirms its commitment to innovative concepts such as third party audits/evaluations.

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:

  • H.R.1899 - Health Care Worker Needlestick Prevention Act (Representatives Stark, Roukema, Miller, and Andrews).

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.

  • H.R.5037 - Workplace Safety and Accountability Act (Representatives Hall and Tauzin)

ASSE has historically taken the following positions on these types of issues:

The ASSE supports Employer Defenses, as we believe that "employee conduct/employer good faith efforts" should be considered by OSHA when citing or fining. If management has done all that can be reasonably expected from a legal and moral perspective, then ASSE believes that it is counterproductive for OSHA to issue a citation or fine if an employee caused the incident by not following procedures, policies, or utilizing required equipment.

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.

  • H.R.5038 - Workplace Safety and Improvement Act (Representatives Hall and Tauzin)

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.

  • H.R.5178 - Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (Representatives Ballenger and Owens)
    S.3067 - Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (Senators Jeffords, Enzi, Kennedy, and Reid)
The consensus of the Society is that H.R.5178 and S.3067 would benefit health care workers in preventing needle stick injuries. The Society is also encouraged by the fact that this legislation is bipartisan, addresses a significant safety and health concern for the health care industry, and it is being championed by two legislators considered to be leaders on Congressional safety and health issues. We know from the members of our Health Care Division that needle stick injuries are significant exposures in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other medical facilities. Our one request for clarification is if it would be possible to consolidate this bill with H.R.1899, which is also bipartisan legislation trying to address the same issue. We think there is the possibility of enacting this initiative in the next session of Congress, and consolidation of it and other similar bills is probably a good place to start. It is also important to note that companion legislation for this bill has been introduced in the Senate, thus, it would appear to have significant bipartisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Finally, we commend the Representatives and Senators sponsoring this legislation for their proactive efforts to address the issue in a way which enhances occupational safety and health.

Conclusion
ASSE has made a conscientious decision to comment on all safety and health related legislation. We believe that only by taking such positions can safety and health professionals be assured that the national focus on occupational safety and health is maintained.

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
ASSE President, 2000-2001

     

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