The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) yesterday said it does not support the effort to link together key provisions of the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAW Act, HR 2067), introduced last year, to mining safety and health provisions of the Mine Safety and Health Act of 2010 bill, HR 5663, for which the Congressional Committee is holding hearings on this week.

ASSE officials note that because the bill is so wide-sweeping in an attempt to move forward reforms to both the federal Mine Safety and Health Act (Mine Act) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), that ASSE fears the short time set aside to consider the bill does not serve the purpose of advancing occupational safety and health in the most thoughtful way possible.

In a letter sent today to Representative George Miller, chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, PhD, CSP, raised concerns and noted, “ASSE is particularly concerned that this rush to markup does not address a glaring failure of the OSH Act to provide more than eight million public sector workers with the same minimal federal occupational safety and health protections that all other workers enjoy.

Among the various OSH Act reforms included in the bill, ASSE does not oppose the increased levels of civil and criminal penalties proposed in this legislation if the new definition of employer under the criminal provisions is changed from ‘any officer or director’ to ‘any responsible officer or director’. As it stands, Hill noted, this definition helps protect the large majority of ASSE members doing their job from being held accountable for others’ failure to address safety and health risks.

“ASSE does not seek protections for an SH&E professional’s failure to fulfill professional responsibilities,” Hill said, “but worker safety and health is best served by putting those responsible for an organization’s commitment to safety and health on notice of penalties that can result from shirking that responsibility.”

ASSE also conditionally supports a change from ‘willful’ to ‘knowing’ in the language of the bill to determine criminal intent under an OSH Act prosecution if it is made clear ‘knowing’ reflects both a knowledge and awareness that the hazard, actions or conditions are likely to place another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury; a knowledge and awareness that the hazard, actions, or conditions constitute a violation of a mandatory safety or health standard; and, that the person had the ability to take action to address the hazard or condition and did not.