To support the advancement of the SH&E profession and its workers, ASSE’s Government Affairs has announced its 2009 legislative and regulatory commitments. For more information, visit www.asse.org/professionalaffairs.
In any activity, the purpose of ASSE’s Government Affairs is to 1) support the advancement of the SH&E profession and that the contribution of SH&E professionals to the health and well being of the American people is appropriately recognized by government at all levels; and 2) ensure that the decisions government makes impacting SH&E in the workplace reflect good science and best practices of ASSE’s member SH&E professionals. In keeping with this purpose, ASSE has made the following legislative and regulatory commitments for 2009.
Develop cooperative ways to address OSHA’s standards-setting process. Mechanisms need to be developed to allow the occupational safety and health community to overcome the division that for too long has limited OSHA’s and MSHA’s ability to update permissible exposure limits and other standards appropriately. For example, ASSE has long called for the use of negotiated rulemaking to set exposure limits and legal protections to standards development organizations to pursue exposure limits through the voluntary consensus standard process. Department of Labor leadership can help establish a national stakeholder dialogue on occupational safety and health issues that helps build common ground on priorities and encourages the development of creative approaches to regulation which can better make use of what most likely will be OSHA’s continued limited resources, given the current economic climate.
Advance risk-based regulatory approaches. OSH regulation must better encompass risk-based approaches that better encourage employers to take overall responsibility for safety and health throughout their organizations. Ways need to be found to encourage more employers to take a proactive approach for safety and health management and not simply be reactive to minimal regulatory mandates. Successful employers use this approach to help maintain competitiveness, and OSHA and MSHA can help encourage more U.S. companies to be competitive in the global marketplace by encouraging more active safety and health commitments.
Provide OSHA coverage for state and municipal employees. In states that do not have their own OSHA plans and, thus, are covered by federal OSHA, state and municipal workers are not guaranteed protection under the OSHA standards. An estimated 8.5 million state and municipal workers are not afforded the same workplace protections that private-sector workers are given—ASSE members are working now to achieve such coverage in Florida. For the nation, ASSE supports federal legislation to require that all state and municipal employees enjoy the same workplace protections given to private-sector employees.
Aim OSHA penalties appropriately. Strengthening OSHA criminal and civil penalties for workplace safety and health violations ending in fatalities has been a key issue of concern over the past several years in Congress. ASSE hopes that a bipartisan approach can be reached on changes to the OSH Act that would target truly bad actors and encourage corporate responsibility for setting a culture of safety at the highest level of management and not simply focus on levels of penalties.
Support NIOSH effectiveness. ASSE is concerned that NIOSH’s singular role in occupational safety and health in recent years has not been fully supported within CDC. CDC reorganization efforts have taken various key resources from NIOSH’s direct control and current budget proposals would further weaken NIOSH. Nevertheless, NIOSH has energized its cooperative efforts with stakeholders, including ASSE’s SH&E professionals and provided national leadership in addressing key OSH issues, such as nanotechnology and respiratory protection. As the only resource for federal occupational safety and health research and education support, NIOSH must be given the leadership and resources it needs to fulfill its mission.
Ensure safety agency commitments. In a difficult economic climate, ASSE will work to ensure that federal commitments to OSHA, MSHA, NIOSH, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and other agencies that impact workplace safety and health are not compromised and that leadership of these agencies is appointed so that it can build consensus among all stakeholders.
Advance global harmonization. OSHA’s rulemaking on global harmonization of U.S. hazard communications (GHS) must be completed. GHS is a positive opportunity for OSHA to both advance safety and health and help ensure competitiveness for U.S. employers.
Support advanced safety degrees. ASSE is committed to working with the academic community and government to help ensure that the supply of safety professionals with advanced degrees continues, especially through efforts to increase the number of Ph.D. programs in safety, as most professionals who currently have a Ph.D. in safety are quickly approaching retirement age. In addition, ASSE will encourage NIOSH to support efforts to incorporate safety into business and engineering school curriculums through the development of case studies and other resources that educate future leaders about the value of safety in business decision making.
Include SH&E in trade policy. ASSE encourages OSHA to take a role in ensuring that safety and health is part of this nation’s trade policy so that American corporate investments in SH&E are not undermined by international competitors who unfairly compete without investing in these global responsibilities.
Support third-party consultation. ASSE continues to support extending OSHA effectiveness by allowing third-party safety audits of companies under strict requirements to ensure professionalism and maximize effect, thereby expanding OSHA’s reach beyond the limits of its current enforcement and programs.
Build consensus on ergonomics. If ergonomics emerges as a legislative or regulatory issue, ASSE will work toward achieving a consensus position to overcome the long-standing polarization on this issue. A risk-based approach encourages cooperation and avoids prescriptive, one-size-fits-all solutions that our expert members know will not work.
Encourage use of voluntary consensus standards. ASSE will work to encourage all federal agencies to comply with the Technology Transfer Act’s mandate to consider national consensus standards where feasible when engaged in rulemaking. Use of consensus standards, such as ANSI/ASSE Z117 (confined spaces) and ANSI/ASSE Z490.1 (safety training), will help to improve worker protection and expedite rulemaking activities while reflecting the current technology and industry best practices.