Congressman Vows to Change OSHA Rulemaking

Nov. 2, 2001
A Republican Congressman promises to stop OSHA from incorporating ACGIH exposure guidelines into its regulations, saying the guidelines "provoke controversy."

At the second hearing on OSHA rulemaking he has called this year, the chair of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protection, Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., promised he would stop OSHA from incorporating into its rules exposure guidelines set by the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).

The Georgia Congressman also said he wants to reform OSHA rulemaking in other ways, noting that the current process is so slow it seems to satisfy no one.

Norwood charged that ACGIH''s threshold limit values (TLVs) are not reached through a transparent process, and that far from reflecting a consensus within the safety and health community, TLVs often provoke controversy.

"Part of what this hearing is about is that OSHA does indeed accept standards that haven''t met consensus," said Norwood yesterday (NOV 1) "And I''m going to stop that."

Also testifying at the hearing was Patrick Breysse, a professor of public health at John Hopkins University and an ACGIH board member. Breysse argued that the ACGIH process is not designed to produce "consensus standards." He repeatedly emphasized that TLVs are only "guidelines designed to assist industrial hygienists in the control of workplace hazards," and that ACGIH plays no part at all in government rulemaking.

Norwood replied that his quarrel is not really with ACGIH''s process, but with OSHA''s incorporation of "non-consensus" TLVs into obligatory regulations.

One possible reason why OSHA''s standards sometimes make reference to TLVs is the difficulty the agency has had in bringing its own 30-year old exposure limits up to date. The need to break the logjam in OSHA rulemaking was the second focus of yesterday''s hearing.

Norwood asked Hank Lick, president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), for advice on how to fix the process.

With the caveat that he was now speaking for himself and not AIHA, Lick said he would amend the OSH Act and "roll the ACGIH process into the American National Standards Institute process," in order to obtain consensus within the health and safety community. But Lick added that for consensus rulemaking to work industry would have to participate, through financial support and by sending its best people.

"My experience is that business participation in the consensus process has only been so-so," said Lick.

OSHA participation in yesterday''s hearing was nonexistent, but Norwood promised he was not going to let the agency duck the issue.

"They [OSHA] should have been here today, but they chickened," said Norwood, who promised more hearings on OSHA rulemaking in the near future.

"We''re going to have OSHA sitting right there at the table," Norwood said. "They''re going to have to explain some things."

by James Nash

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