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"Historic" meeting held between OSHA, state occ safety reps (3/15)

Public health officials from around the country recently attended a two-day meeting in Washington, D.C., with staff from OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to discuss common goals and means of improving joint efforts to protect the health of workers.

The meeting, held March 9-10 in Washington, D.C., included dozens of attendees from a variety of federal, regional and state occupational health and safety programs.

Since the early 1980s, NIOSH has provided funding to state agencies to conduct surveillance of work-related health conditions and related prevention activities. The number of states receiving funding has increased over the years and today 23 states have funding to conduct at least a minimum level of occupational health surveillance activities. An even larger group of states monitors lead hazards and blood lead levels under cooperative arrangements.

While some of these state programs have long histories of working with regional OSHA offices or state OSHA plans, others are in early stages of development. This was the first time that a national meeting between CSTE and OSHA has been held to cement this relationship.

In opening the historic session, OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels, an occupational epidemiologist by training, welcomed the state officials as partners in efforts to translate research into actions that can reduce the problem of injury and illness caused by work and that identify and reduce hazards. Michaels urged attendees to work together to collect and analyze data in order to focus resources on emerging problems, to measure the agency’s impact, and to improve information for development of standards.

Representing the OSHA field operations, Regional Administrator (and meeting co-chair) Marthe Kent related the scope of health referrals that had come to Region 1 from state officials and how those referrals resulted in effective enforcement actions.

During the meeting, several national office OSHA staff briefed state health officials on OSHA programs, including regulatory agenda items and emphasis programs. In breakout sessions that included both federal and state professionals, groups discussed best practices for providing high quality referrals to OSHA, data needs for standards development and recordkeeping issues, and means and focus of education and outreach efforts. The groups also discussed means of improving future dialog between OSHA regional and area offices and state health officials.

The meeting was put together by OSHA staff and the Occupational Health Subcommittee of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and made possible by continued NIOSH support, provided a forum for working through issues around communication, mutual assistance, and data needs between OSHA and public health agencies.

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