Janet Keyes, CIH, recently attended the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition (AIHCe) in Denver. We will be featuring some of the highlights from that conference.
Dr. David Michaels, head of OSHA, and Dr. John Howard, head of NIOSH, presented a candid discussion about their individual agencies’ goals and future cooperative efforts at the general session on May 26, 2010, at AIHCe.
Dr. Michaels stated that OSHA’s primary goals for the next three years will be:
- More emphasis on enforcement, targeting the worst actors and using enforcement as a more powerful deterrent
- Development of ways to evaluate and control hazards where no standards exist. This could be a requirement for I2P2 – injury and illness prevention programs, which would include a requirement to assess and abate workplace hazards. Minnesota’s AWAIR program is an example of this, but would probably require some modifications (such as an expansion to more industries) to be accepted if federal OSHA promulgates a standard. A number of other states (California, for instance) have similar programs. OSHA will be looking at the states’ experiences in developing its standard.
- Changing the way standards come into existence, so they don’t take so long to promulgate.
- Recordkeeping changes, so injury records can be better used by employers. This sounded like a move towards electronic submittal, but that wasn’t explicitly mentioned.
OSHA’s trying to move away from too much reliance of injury and illness rates, because there have been some clear errors in reporting (such as missing many illnesses, because they don’t have a clear occurrence date) and because they aren’t a good predictor of catastrophic events (look at BP’s very good illness/injury rate records, compared with their very bad history of catastrophes).
OSHA and NIOSH are trying to eliminate some overlap between the agencies, such as with risk assessments. A number of federal agencies need risk assessments; NIOSH was pushing for a federal clearinghouse of those.
OSHA has again begun looking at updating the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). Those were last updated in 1989, but a federal court threw out the updates. A number of states, including Minnesota, did keep the 1989 updates. OSHA (and everyone else) acknowledges that updating these en masse will be difficult, if not impossible. Dr. Michaels mentioned that we shouldn’t focus strictly on the PELs, overlooking professional judgment and evaluation of hazards. (Which brings us back to Control Banding…developing a way to control risks when no exposure limits exist. (See the previous post on Control Banding)
OSHA is trying to develop wikis for best practices, which will initially just be for OSHA’s internal use.
For more information on this or assistance with other safety issues, please contact CHESS.