The Baltimore Convention Center is hosting AIHce 2016, taking place May 21-26. (Visit Baltimore photo)

OSHA's Michaels Backs Disease Surveillance Program

OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels came out strongly in favor of a national occupational disease surveillance program here at the AIHce 2016 conference on May 24, calling for safety and health professionals to support the idea.

BALTIMORE -- OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels came out strongly in favor of a national occupational disease surveillance program here at the AIHce 2016 conference on May 24, calling for safety and health professionals to support the idea. Michaels brought it up during a Q&A where attendees asked him and Dr. John Howard, the NIOSH director, questions for an hour.

"What's remarkable to me is that we don't have a national occupational disease surveillance program," said Michaels, adding that with many diseases, better reporting of their prevalence would lead to improved prevention actions. "I don't think OSHA can mandate this . . . but that's something that should be talked about, and certainly this profession should be talking about, much more."

He later noted that many employers aren't hiring industrial hygienists, but if OSHA had more up-to-date PELs and there was a better focus on occupational diseases, that would change, he said.

One question concerned the GHS system and how OSHA can work to ensure end users obtain GHS-compliant safety data sheets they need to comply with the OSHA standard. Michaels said OSHA's compliance officers are checking SDSs during inspections, and OSHA is citing non-compliance where appropriate. "I'm really trying to push the envelope on this," he said. He stressed that, as OSHA has explained in the past, if employers can demonstrate they have made good-faith efforts to obtain compliant SDSs but been unsuccessful, they will not face citations.

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