AIHA appreciates how quickly the
agency has moved on these issues. Now,
if only we could convince OSHA to require that every contract funded by stimulus dollars include an occupational
safety and health professional on staff…
Pandemic Flu Preparations
Having just averted the first outbreak of
H1N1 (“swine flu”), Congress decided—
following years of warnings—to hold a
hearing about preparations for the pandemic flu. At the hearing, lawmakers
urged that a single federal agency take
the lead, which sounds logical.
However, participants could not agree
about who should be in charge. The Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) said that the responsibility for pandemic flu preparations should rest with
OSHA and HHS. The Department of Homeland Security said the effort should be led
by the Office of Personnel Management.
And the Government Accountability Office
(GAO) said that all agencies should take a
leadership role. All OEHS professionals
should hope the leadership question is addressed before we face a real threat.
OSHA to Evaluate VPP Program
Following a GAO report on the VPP issued in mid-June, which recommended
improved oversight and additional controls on program participants, OSHA announced that it will address the problems
identified in the report.
The report found that, although OSHA
more than doubled the number of worksites in the program from 2003 through
2008, 12 percent of the participating
worksites had an injury and illness rate
higher than rates for their industry. The
goal is for participating sites to have injury and illness rates of 50 percent less
than their industry average.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration was thought to be considering
eliminating the VPP program and alliances in general. Now the GAO report
gives Congressional Democrats and the
administration ample reason to take a
close look at this program.
Globally Harmonized System
In late May, OSHA sent a proposed rule to
the White House Office of Management
and Budget to implement the Globally
Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification
and Labeling of Chemicals. OSHA says the
proposal will modify the hazard communication standard from performance-based to specification-oriented.
Some observers believe the proposal
must also be reviewed by a small business panel because of its potential to
impose costly new requirements on
business. Proponents say the GHS will
facilitate international trade and allow
small chemical manufacturers to participate more easily in global markets.
OSHA says it intends to publish the
proposal in October and will hold public
hearings after publication. But final implementation of this proposal will likely
take a long time.
WASHINGTON INSIDER | COLUMN
With a new administration in town, organized labor has again raised the issue
of an ergonomics standard. But enacting
a standard is easier said than done. While
OSHA has announced that the agency
will continue to push for an ergonomics
standard and a more targeted enforcement approach, the agency is much more
likely to continue using the general duty
clause to cite ergonomics violations.
This issue has the potential to cause
considerable problems. If the agency decides to move forward with an ergonomics proposal, industry will likely respond
with an organized campaign to oppose it.
A protracted battle over ergonomics
would harm any possibility of industry
and organized labor working together on
other issues in this administration.
IAQ Standard on the Horizon?
More than a decade has passed since
OSHA’s last attempt to enact an indoor
air quality (IAQ) standard. Now the
agency is signaling that it may consider
IAQ guidelines. This news came after the
agency met with the American Federation of Teachers, which expressed their
wish for the agency to enact a standard.
A standard is unlikely, but don’t be surprised if the agency accepts input for
son with Congress and federal agencies. He can be
reached at (703) 846-0730 or email@example.com.