ASSE Urges Congressional Leaders to Maintain Focus on Safety

The American Society of Safety\r\nEngineers said Tuesday, in comments to Congress, that OSHA plays a pivotal role in maintaining a national focus on the\r\nimportance of workplace safety.

OSHA plays a pivotal role in maintaining a national focus on the importance of workplace safety, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) said Tuesday in comments to Congress on the current flat funding for OSHA included in the 2002 appropriations budget now being debated.

In letters sent to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, ASSE President Samuel Gualardo, noted that although the current appropriations bill leaves OSHA funding at its previous levels, ASSE''s members indicate that the proposed appropriations is responsible and reasonable and will not keep OSHA from being able to meet its statutory mission of preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

"However, ASSE is concerned that this current flat level of funding not become an ongoing pattern," Gualardo said in his letters to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Chair Arlen Specter and House Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Ralph Regula.

"We are steadfast in the belief that OSHA should be evaluated and subsequently funded at an appropriate level which supports its statutory mission."

According to the Department of Labor''s Bureau of Labor Statistics National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries from 1999, 6,023 people died while on the job in 1999 and that on-average about 17 workers were fatally injured each day with 83 percent of those workers dying the day they were injured.

As for other areas of the proposed OSHA budget, ASSE said it was encouraged to see a $700,000 increase for the statistical area.

Improvement in statistical evaluation of safety performance is integral to improving the country''s competitive position in the world economy, Gualardo noted.

However, ASSE is concerned with the proposed cuts in the budget that would affect OSHA''s technical support as it could "threaten the quality of OSHA''s well-utilized Web site and its joint Web site venture with the European Economic Union providing international occupational safety and health regulations to a wide and very interested audience."

As the appropriations process moves forward, ASSE is urging Congress to provide for additional financial support in the OSHA budget to promote professional development opportunities for safety and health professionals employed by government agencies, including encouragement of professional certification for public sector employees.

"Supporting professional certification of public sector safety and health professionals will greatly benefit the public and the marketplace," said Gualardo.

ASSE said it supports the occupational safety and health functions of other federal agencies including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Chemical and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB).

"These agencies contribute greatly by both developing and enforcing occupational, public and environmental safety and health laws, or by providing valuable research, investigative services and training in a non-regulatory role," noted Gualardo.

In a recent letter sent to Congress on the budget for the CSB budget, Gualardo wrote, "The new budget request of $9 million for fiscal year 2002 is a reasonable and responsible request. The CSB, whose mission is to ensure the safety of workers and the public by preventing chemical incidents, is seen by ASSE and its members as a scientific and investigative body which moves beyond enforcement or regulatory responsibilities."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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