ASSE Drafts Workplace Safety Legislation Reform Saying Time is Now

"[N]o one believes workers are safe enough," said ASSE President Darryl C. Hill. "No one believes that we cannot do better. Let's do better."

CHICAGO--The American Society of Safety Engineers on Friday sent key congressional leaders draft legislation to address what the society says are needed reforms in the federal occupational safety and health law to help improve U.S. workplace safety and health. ASSE's bill, titled Enhancing Occupational Safety and Health Protections in the 100th Year Act of 2011, is intended to help improve OSHA and NIOSH capabilities and better encourage employer responsibility for worker safety and health.

The comprehensive draft legislation was a first for ASSE, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a society this week in Chicago, where the organization's 44th annual Professional Development Conference is underway.

“While the direct responsibility for saving lives and preventing injuries and illnesses in this nation’s workplaces rests with employers, we can all do a better job of helping them and encouraging them to meet that responsibility,” said ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, in letters to chairman and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“For the past 100 years, ASSE’s member occupational safety, health, and environmental professionals have worked day and night in all industries to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. They have seen results but at the same time know that more needs to and can be done,” Hill added.

Hill noted that this is an important time for the profession and for ASSE. “That’s why, on this our 100th Anniversary, ASSE offers this draft legislation to build on what we have learned is missing in the way this nation oversees workplace safety and health. After 40 years of the OSH Act and other decisions made following its passage in 1970, workers should be able to rely on a thoughtful reexamination of that Act’s effectiveness, which we hope our draft legislation encourages.”

In his letters, Hill notes that the changes to the OSH Act ASSE offers are structural in nature, meant to help OSHA work better, be more effective in its outreach, and keep up with rapidly advancing knowledge about how to protect workers and workplaces.

“The same is true of our effort to relocate the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) within the Department of Health and Human Services,” Hill said. “Most of the ideas are those ASSE has championed over the years, and some are ideas we backed in the occupational safety and health reform debate over the last several years. You will find ideas offered by both Republicans and Democrats. If not on this 100th anniversary, which we also consider the beginning of a modern commitment to safe and healthy workplaces, when will be a better time to build on what we know can work to improve how our nation oversees occupational safety and health protections in our workplaces?”

ASSE’s bill contains provisions on coverage of public sector employees; updating permissable exposure limits; advancing a risk-based regulatory approach; encouraging collaborative rulemaking; enhanced definition of competent person; encouraging OSHA consideration of voluntary consensus standards; enabling OSHA to update standards with voluntary consensus standards; relocation of NIOSH within the Department of Health and Human Services; increased criminal penalties for those responsible for safety culture in an organization; encouraging employer risk assessment through third party consultations; encouraging risk assessment through safety and health audit privilege; codification of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP); and expanded access to VPP for small businesses.

“Efforts of employers and our members, OSHA’s regulatory oversight, and the research and support for education that NIOSH directs have been highly successful. But no one believes workers are safe enough,” Hill said. “No one believes that we cannot do better. Let’s do better.”

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