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ASSE suggests OSHA priorities to Obama transition team (1/5)

January 5, 2009
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In December, officials of the American Society of Safety Engineers met with the Obama transition team to offer suggestions for the Department of Labor and OSHA. Here are some of the priorities ASSE would like to see the new administration address, according to an ASSE press release:

Standards - An examination of how OSHA standards are pursued must be undertaken, according to ASSE. OSHA should lead efforts to develop cooperative mechanisms to help counter the division that has limited OSHA’s ability to update standards and permissible exposure limits (PELs).

Advance risk-based safety and health management approaches - OSHA should encourage employers to take proactive responsibility for safety and health through risk-based regulatory approaches and compliance assistance resources. Europe, Japan, China and committed U.S. employers already use such approaches. OSHA is falling behind the world in not incorporating risk-based safety and health management approaches.

OSHA can help U.S. companies save jobs, says ASSE. Rulemaking on global harmonization of U.S. hazard communications (GHS) will help U.S. employers compete across the globe and should be completed. An engaged OSHA can help ensure workplace safety and health issues are addressed fully in U.S. trade agreements.

Continue to support cooperative programs like the Voluntary Protection Program and the OSHA alliances, which ASSE says continue to advance employer understanding that safe workplaces save lives and positively impact an employer’s bottom line.

Third-party consultation - ASSE supports extending OSHA effectiveness by establishing a program to allow third-party safety audits of companies under strict requirements to ensure professionalism and maximize effect, and in doing so expand OSHA’s reach beyond the limits of its current enforcement and cooperative programs, according to ASSE.

Ergonomics – If ergonomics emerges as a regulatory goal, ASSE will not be able to support a prescriptive approach. Its members’ knowledge and experience indicate that ergonomic problems are addressed through specific job and workplace fixes. Any approach to ergonomics must be risk-based, encourage cooperation, and avoid prescriptive, one-size-fits-all solutions that cannot work.

Transportation-related deaths continue to be the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S. OSHA should examine its current efforts and engage employers, employees and other federal agencies to create a new emphasis on addressing this problem.

Cooperation with NIOSH - OSHA’s relationship with NIOSH envisioned by the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act should be increased so that NIOSH’s work, including key research, can support and contribute to OSHA’s standards and other activities.

Improve support for state programs – OSHA’s ability to support and encourage state program effectiveness must be strengthened.

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