OSHA Considers Moves to Address Occupational Health

Rich Fairfax, OSHA's director of enforcement programs, has announced several steps the agency is considering to improve occupational health outcomes, as a result of a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).

Fairfax spoke Dec. 16 at NACOSH's final 2003 meeting.

At the same meeting, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced that they have cemented an agreement that calls for six jointly-chaired discussion groups that will meet at least three times a year to exchange information on a range of safety and health issues.

Fairfax outlined the following steps OSHA has taken or is considering to address occupational health issues:

  • A Request for Information that would be published in the Federal Register seeking stakeholder comments on where the agency should be headed on health enforcement issues, such as targeting and health data collection;
  • OSHA will host a roundtable on the future focus of industrial hygiene at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition in May;
  • The agency is considering a National Emphasis Program on occupational asthma.

Kathleen Rest, NIOSH's deputy director, explained that the increased collaboration between OSHA and NIOSH builds on less-formal meetings that have been taking place over the past two years.

"This is a more formalized method to ensure that we have close communication and collaboration on a whole host of activities that are important to both of our agencies," said Rest.

She explained the topics the six joint work groups would address:

  • Strategic and emerging issues, including emerging hazards and emergency response;
  • Standards and guidance, health hazards and risk assessments;
  • Technology, science and medicine, sampling and testing methodology, respiratory certification and usage and occupational medicine;
  • Data quality evaluation and analysis;
  • Training and education;
  • Social marketing and communication, publications, small business outreach, alliances and partnerships.

In addition, the two organizations will host a NIOSH-OSHA leadership planning meeting where all of the program directors will come together and talk about what they're learning from the issues exchange groups.

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