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Should NIOSH Remain Within the CDC?

Leaders from ASSE and AIHA urge Congress to consider whether NIOSH should remain within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or be relocated elsewhere to better ensure its effectiveness.

Should NIOSH remain under the umbrella of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or should the agency relocate within the federal government to help increase its effectiveness? That’s what the leaders of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) would like to determine.

In an April 22 letter to Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, AIHA president Allan K. Fleeger, CIH, CSP, and ASSE President Richard A. Pollock, CSP, requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on whether NIOSH should remain within its current organizational structure under the CDC.

Fleeger and Pollock stressed that NIOSH is this nation’s only resource for occupational safety and health research and support for health and safety education. They referenced the “difficult changes” that have taken place within CDC in recent years, which they claim have impacted NIOSH’s effectiveness, including budget and organizational concerns.

“The CDC, in fulfilling its difficult mission of meeting the challenges to American’s overall health and well-being, is not in the best position to champion NIOSH’s largely separate and distinct mission of supporting protections for Americans at work,” they wrote. “With budget cuts now looming across government, AIHA and ASSE fear greatly that the very effective programs NIOSH provides to help our members protect workers and to train the next generations of health and safety professionals will not have the support NIOSH needs in the Administration.”

Fleeger and Pollock discussed the possibility of locating NIOSH within the Department of Labor, where the agency could more easily associate with OSHA and MSHA, or shifting NIOSH to locate it within the National Institutes of Health. But the best option, they suggested, may be to make NIOSH an independent agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Either way, they urged Kline to commission a GAO study to gather more information.

“The study should look at the positives and negatives of the alternatives outlined here in order to provide Congress, HHS, CDC, NIOSH and NIOSH stakeholders with the information on how best to ensure that NIOSH can meet the needs of occupational safety and health research in both today’s and tomorrow’s workplace,” they wrote.

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