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AIHA to Solis: Choose technical expert to head OSHA; fix the PELs (3/16)

March 16, 2009
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In a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis written March 9, American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) President Lindsay E. Booher, CIH, CSP, detailed “three very important issues” for priority attention as the Department of Labor develops its policies and positions for occupational safety and health.

Here are AIHA’s suggested priorities:

“1) Of immediate importance is the appointment of an individual to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. Many names are being circulated as possible appointees to this position; however, before you make a final decision please consider what AIHA believes are the minimum qualifications the individual should possess if chosen to lead OSHA:

  • A lifelong commitment to health and safety, preferably a health and safety professional;
  • Comprehensive academic training in occupational health and safety;
  • At least 15 years of technical experience in occupational health and safety;
  • Proven management experience in implementing health and safety programs; and
  • The vision and ability to build coalitions and consensus among diverse groups to effectively promote a health and safety agenda accepted by all.

“2) A second area of immediate concern is the economic stimulus package recently approved by Congress and signed by President Obama. AIHA recently sent a letter to the President urging him to direct OSHA to ensure that the new jobs created by the stimulus package include adequate workplace protections for these new workers. With 600,000 of these jobs intended for the construction industry and another 400,000 for manufacturing, workplace health and safety is vital. The stimulus package contained $80 million as an additional appropriation to the Secretary of Labor to address workplace issues. AIHA urges you to appropriate a considerable portion of this $80 million to OSHA for the specific purpose of hiring additional OSHA personnel to work solely on the new job creation projects across the country. These positions could include inspectors, consultation experts, compliance assistance personnel, or other needs identified.

We also urge you to do whatever possible to work with the President and others to require contracts awarded for new stimulus construction and manufacturing projects include the hiring of an appropriate number of occupational safety and health professionals to oversee the day-to-day workplace health and safety of the workers. No contract should be awarded unless it includes adequate personnel to oversee worker health and safety.

“3) Finally, on more of a long-term goal, we urge you to direct OSHA to assume a leadership position working with stakeholders to seek out a solution to the long-standing problem of how best to update the permissible exposure limits (PELs). It is unconscionable that workers in the United States are covered by PELs adopted some 40 or more years ago. The only way for this effort to succeed is with the support of you and the administration. We urge you to consider this a priority for the agency.”

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