ASSE Protests NYC Detector Permit Law

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) joined the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) in voicing concerns about a proposed law in New York City requiring permits for atmospheric biological, chemical and radiological detectors.

In the letter sent to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, ASSE Chapter President Stephanie Altis-Gurnari stated that the legislation could have a negative impact on the practices of safety, health and environmental professionals because it allows the New York Police Department to authorize, deny or delay any workplace or environmental sampling.

"Enacting the proposed bill will hinder our members’ ability to adequately help employers protect employees and the public in many ways," Altis-Gurnari wrote in the Feb. 6 letter. "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 [safety, health and environmental] 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 normal business use of atmospheric biological, chemical and radiological detectors.

Bill’s Definitions “Broadly Written”

Among ASSE’s concerns include the bill’s definitions for the following terms: alarm, biological agent, biological detector, chemical agent and chemical detector. According to Altis-Gurnari, the definitions are "so broadly written that [they] would include instruments that [safety, health and environmental] professionals use on a daily basis and have nothing to do with measuring security risks."

For example, Altis-Gurnari noted, ASSE members regularly use instruments that fall under the bill’s definitions to measure air quality and detect chemicals and biological elements that threaten worker safety. If the bill is enacted as written, Altis-Gurnari explained, these ASSE members would be subject to misdemeanor fines simply for doing their jobs to protect workers from common workplace hazards.

In addition, forcing such ASSE members to file emergency action plans to be implemented in the event of an alarm is unfeasible considering that atmospheric biological, chemical and radiological detectors are often used in unknown or unexpected circumstances instead of in predictable events, Altis-Gurnari said.

To learn more about concerns presented by AIHA and NYCOSH regarding this bill, read AIHA, NYCOSH Protest Air Monitoring Bill.

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