AMERICAN SOCIETY
OF SAFETY ENGINEERS

1800 East Oakton Street
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018-2187

847.699.2929
FAX 847.296.3769
www.asse.org

March 4, 2002

General Services Administration
FAR Secretariat (MVP)
1800 F Street, NW
Room 4035
ATTN: Laurie Duarte
Washington, DC 20405

VIA E-MAIL: farcase.1998-020@gsa.gov

RE: FAR Case 1998-020; Proposed Rule to
Amend FAR Procedures for Contractor Submission of MSDSs

Dear Ms. Duarte:

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) offers the following comments to the General Services Administration Proposed Rule (631 FR 634; January 4, 2002) to amend Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) language providing policies and procedures for contractor submission of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). The proposed amendments come at the request of the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council.

ASSE is a global association representing over 30,000 safety, health and environmental professionals committed to work place protection of people, property and the environment. Founded in 1911, the Society is the world's oldest organization of safety professionals. A fact sheet describing ASSE is included with these comments.

Given our members' professional interest in workplace safety, we understand the Councils' interest in maintaining reasonable arrangements to ensure that workers in government projects will continue to be protected by the information provided in MSDSs. While we have no comment on the overall purpose of this proposed rule, we are deeply concerned with the provision that would remove the automatic inclusion of future Federal Standard 313 revisions into a contract where MSDSs are at issue. In effect, if this proposed change were adopted, contractors on government work sites where hazardous materials are in use would not have to concern themselves with any changes to Federal Standard 313, no matter how important those changes could be to the protection of workers, property and the environment at that work site.

ASSE's stated policy on government regulations is that they should "be efficient, participative, and centralized." Position Statement on the Role of Consensus Standards and Governmental Regulations in Occupational Safety and Health (Approved by the ASSE Board of Directors August 25, 1995). As the contract requirements under FAR now stand, reference to Federal Standard 313 are centralized. All contractors, all government agencies and all workers protected under Federal Standard 313 have a centralized reference for determining hazardous materials. Removing the requirement that contractors follow updates of Federal Standard 313 removes this commonality of understanding and could very well result in confusion and misinformation on federal work sites, ultimately leading to increased injury, illness and deaths among workers as well as damage to property and the environment. The purpose of government regulation should be to reduce such risk, not increase it.

Given these concerns, ASSE's Governmental Affairs Committee will be examining this issue more closely at its meeting next week on March 14 in Washington, DC, which is the only meeting the Committee has held since this Proposed Rule was published. We respectfully ask that an opportunity to expand on these comments to include the deliberations of the Committee be allowed in this case.

If further comment is not possible, ASSE must simply but strenuously oppose allowing federal contractors to ignore updates of Federal Standard 313 during the life of their contracts, which would be the result if the Proposed Rule is promulgated as currently written.

Sincerely,

M.E. Greer, CSP
Society President 2001-2002

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