In an unprecedented move, the presidents of three major EHS organizations – American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and the National Safety Council (NSC) – jointly have appealed to the members of the Senate and House appropriations committees to ensure that NIOSH and OSHA at least are funded at their FY 2012 program levels.
In a letter to the legislators, NSC President Janet Froetscher, ASSE President Richard Pollock and AIHA President Barbara Dawson noted that each day, more than 5,000 workers sustain disabling injuries on the job, 11 workers die from an unintentional injury and 146 workers die from work‐related diseases. The burden costs industry and citizens an estimated $346 billion per week.
“OSHA works to ensure safe working conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education and assistance to employers,” wrote the EHS leaders.
They noted that OSHA regulations address issues such as the use of personal protective equipment, permissible exposure limits to hazardous materials and industry‐specific safety procedures, while the agency’s On‐Site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium‐sized businesses striving to improve their safety systems. Cooperative programs, such as the Voluntary Protection Programs and Alliance program, offer ways for businesses and organizations to work cooperatively with the agency to reduce workplace fatalities and incidents.
NIOSH, the primary federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related illness and injury, “provides national leadership in the field by gathering information, conducting scientific research, and translating the knowledge learned into products and services to support workplace safety,” said Froestscher, Pollock and Dawson.
They made special note of NIOSH’s efforts such as the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (AgFF) sector program and the education and Research Centers (ERCs). The agriculture, forestry and fishing industries have the highest fatality rates of any industry, with 566 deaths in 2011. Most operations in these industries are small; nearly 78 percent of employers in these industries employ fewer than 10 workers and are excluded from OSHA enforcement, which means that many workers in these industries are excluded from many federal labor protection laws
Under the direction of Congress, NIOSH in 1990 established Centers for Agricultural Disease and Injury Research, Education and Prevention in response to evidence agricultural workers were suffering higher rates of injury and illness than other U.S. workers. That initiative includes nine regional centers and one national center to address children’s farm safety. These centers have conducted research leading to evidence‐based standards that save lives. It is the only substantive federal effort to meet the obligation to ensure safe working conditions for workers in one of our nation’s most vital production sectors.
NIOSH supports education and research in occupational health through academic degree programs and research opportunities. With an aging occupational safety and health workforce, ERCs are essential to training the next generation of professionals. The centers establish academic, labor and industry research partnerships to achieve these goals. With the ERCs supplying a good portion of the country's OSH graduates who will go on to fill OSH professional roles, the elimination of the ERCs would create a crisis in the safety profession by substantially decreasing the number and quality of trained OSH professionals, and resulting in the elimination of OSH educational services to over 10,000 U.S. businesses.