The Metropolitan Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has expressed opposition to a proposed law (Proposed Int. No. 650-B) to amend the administrative code of the City of New York by requiring permits for atmospheric biological, chemical and radiological detectors.

In a letter to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, ASSE Chapter President Stephanie Altis-Gurnari, CSP, stated that ASSE joins others, including the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), in voicing concern about the negative impact this legislation will have on the practices of environmental, health and safety professionals.

AIHA expressed its opposition to the pending bill in a Jan. 18 letter to Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Council.

ASSE’s Altis-Gurnari wrote, “Enacting the proposed bill will hinder our members’ ability to adequately help employers protect employees and the public in many ways. We understand the need to take measures to protect New York City's citizens from unnecessary fear of harm from biological, chemical and radiological threats, however, this proposal will not accomplish its aim if it makes every SH&E professional subject to its restrictions and penalties.”

Altis-Gurnari urged the city to work with ASSE members to help better define the devices included in this bill and to find better ways to communicate with the public about the use of atmospheric biological, chemical and radiological detectors in the course of normal business.

Among the concerns with the bill, Altis-Gurnari wrote, are the “broadly written” definitions for alarm, biological agent, biological detector, chemical agent and chemical detector. For instance, ASSE members use instruments almost daily that would be covered by these definitions to measure air quality and the presence of chemicals and biological elements that could pose a threat to workers as part of their professional practice.

ASSE also notes that the proposed law subjecting the day-to-day practice of “our members to file an emergency action plan (EAP) to be implemented in the event of an alarm is unfeasible given that the use of atmospheric biological, chemical and radiological detectors is often in unknown or unexpected circumstances and not a predictable event. Therefore, any EAP filed would be vague and non-specific.”