ASSE Opposes Proposed Law Requiring Detector Permits in NY

The Metropolitan Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers has expressed opposition to a proposed law to amend the administrative code of the City of New York by requiring permits for atmospheric biological, chemical, and radiological detectors. If enacted as written, SH&E professionals who use such detectors would be subject to misdemeanor fines for simply doing their job in helping protect workers from common workplace threats, said Chapter President Stephanie Altis-Gurnari, CSP.

In a letter to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Altis-Gurnari stated that ASSE joins others, including the American Industrial Hygiene Association, in voicing concern about the negative impact this legislation (Proposed Int. No. 650-B) will have on the practices of SH&E professionals. She noted that hundreds of ASSE members work in all areas of the city's five boroughs in all industries including transportation, construction, healthcare, and insurance.

"Enacting the proposed bill will hinder our members' ability to adequately help employers protect employees and the public in many ways," Altis-Gurnari wrote. "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 are the definitions for alarm, biological agent, biological detector, chemical agent, and chemical detector. ASSE believes these are "so broadly written that the definitions would include instruments that SH&E professionals use on a daily basis and have nothing to do with measuring security risks."

ASSE members and other SH&E professionals 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, Altis-Gurnari noted. The proposed law subjecting the day-to-day practice of SH&E professionals to file an emergency action plan 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, she added.

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