ASSE: Workplace Safety Oversight Must Be Strengthened

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) submitted draft legislation to leaders in Congress in efforts to bolster employer responsibility for occupational safety.

The bill, “Enhancing Occupational Safety and Health Protections in the 100th Year Act of 2011,” outlines the changes ASSE says are needed in federal law to improve U.S. oversight of workplace safety and health.

“While the direct responsibility for saving lives and preventing injuries and illnesses in this nation’s workplaces rests with employers, we can all do a better job of helping them and encouraging them to meet that responsibility,” said ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, in June 10 letters to chairman and ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and House Committee on Education and Workforce.

Hill noted that this is an important time for the profession and ASSE. “That’s why on this, our 100th anniversary, ASSE offers the enclosed draft legislation to build on what we have learned is missing in the way this nation oversees workplace safety and health. After 40 years of the OSH Act and other decisions made following its passage in 1970, workers should be able to rely on a thoughtful reexamination of that Act’s effectiveness, which we hope our draft legislation encourages.”

In his letters, Hill noted that the changes to the OSH Act ASSE offers are structural in nature, meant to help OSHA work better, be more effective in its outreach, and keep up with rapidly advancing knowledge about how to protect workers and workplaces.

ASSE’s bill contains provisions on coverage of public sector employees; updating permissible exposure limits; advancing a risk-based regulatory approach; encouraging collaborative rulemaking; enhanced definition of competent person; encouraging OSHA consideration of voluntary consensus standards; enabling OSHA to update standards with voluntary consensus standards; relocation of NIOSH within the Department of Health and Human Services; increased criminal penalties for those responsible for safety culture in an organization; encouraging employer risk assessment through third part consultations; encouraging risk assessment through safety and health audit privilege; codification of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP); and expanded access to VPP for small businesses.

“Efforts of employers and our members, OSHA’s regulatory oversight and the research and support for education that NIOSH directs have been highly successful. But no one believes workers are safe enough,” Hill said. “No one believes that we cannot do better. Let’s do better.”

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