Occupational Health & Safety

Chris Patton, CSP, president of ASSE

ASSE, AIHA Offer Creative Ideas

The March 4 "OSHA Listens" meeting did not lack for out-of-the-box thinking. What OSHA does with the input from ASSE President Chris Patton and others is the crucial part, of course.

The all-day "OSHA Listens" meeting on March 4 was offered as a live webcast, and the agency has posted written comments that were submitted in advance. OSHA promises to post the transcript within 30 days.

The event had star power, drama, and high importance, starting with witnesses who had lost a family member to an industrial explosion, fall, or burns after a refinery pipe broke. Representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, ORC, the AFL-CIO, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, and more followed -- speakers representing labor, employers, COSH groups, builders, transport companies, public health groups, VPPPA, and flight attendants. OSHA had asked nine questions to frame the day's discussion.

ASSE and AIHA made available their written comments based on members' input. They contain some enticing ideas, some differences, and some common ground. ASSE President Chris Patton, CSP, was listed first on a early panel of the meeting. Among their recommendations:

  • Both ASSE and AIHA support an OSHA safety and health program rule, AIHA saying workplaces should be required to have written safety and health programs.
  • ASSE asks OSHA to "explore the possibility of building tools to improve personal responsibility in workplaces."
  • AIHA wants NIOSH to involve itself more in OSHA's strategic planning and research on emerging risks.
  • ASSE says the agency should go beyond its outreach to Spanish-speaking workers and specifically mentions providing resources for Hmong, Russian, Polish, and Haitian Creole speakers.
  • ASSE urges OSHA to involve itself more in social media and safety lists. Safety inspectors should use readily available technology such as cell phone photos to document violations and communicate immediate risks, allowing for faster action to address them, ASSE says. AIHA says OSHA should consider daily or weekly podcasts to update workers, regular phone/Web town hall meetings, and online chats.
  • Earthquake mitigation, medical marijuana's risks to workplace safety, and health risks should all be addressed by OSHA, according to ASSE.
  • Both associations want OSHA to take a lead role in assessing nanotechnology risks; AIHA also asks for action on safe patient handling/ergonomics and says OSHA's coverage should be expanded to all workers.
  • ASSE recommends that OSHA partner with property and casualty insurer groups and insurance agent groups, asking them to share OSHA's resources with their clients.
  • ASSE also says a "new balance between the right to bring a lawsuit versus the ability to protect workers is needed."
  • To go beyond injury and illness logs -- one of OSHA's questions for this meeting -- ASSE members suggested taking note of the frequency of change orders for construction sites, viewing webcams of job sites, examining PPE purchase orders for inappropriate conduct (such as respirators ordered once but no replacement cartridges ordered later), and interviewing subcontractors after they have signed off a job site while other work continues at that site.

AIHA's comments note that development of safety and health standards by federal agencies other than OSHA "has created an environment in which compliance is unnecessarily difficult. Mechanisms must be developed to improve coordination of standard setting to avoid regulatory conflict and duplication," the comments say.

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