AIHA Survey Names Top Health and Safety Issues

Nov. 14, 2008
The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) recently announced the results of its biennial membership survey, projecting that permissible exposure limits, MSDS/GHS and nanotechnology are among the top public policy issues of concern to AIHA members and the EHS profession over the next 2 years.

“This list of policy issues allows AIHA to focus our efforts on the priorities of our members,” said AIHA President Lindsay E. Booher, CIH, CSP. “Industrial hygienists and other OEHS professionals are on the front line of worker safety and public health, and these regulatory and legislative issues have a key impact on the work that they perform.”

AIHA identified the following as the top public policy issues for 2009–2010:

Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) Updating – OSHA PELs are consensus-based limits that indicate how long an individual can be exposed to a particular substance without experiencing harmful effects. The occupational health and safety profession considers PELs to be one of the most basic tools needed to protect workers. However, many PELs have not been updated since the 1960s and 1970s. Science in this area has matured, but the PELs have not. AIHA continues to work with OSHA, Congress and others to reach a consensus on the best way to update PELs.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)/Globally Harmonized System (GHS) – AIHA supports efforts to improve the accuracy of MSDS and supports efforts to improve hazard communication for employers and employees. Such efforts are also a crucial element in protecting workers and others in case of national emergencies. A major part of improving hazard communication is adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. AIHA supports adoption of the GHS.

Nanotechnology – The increased use of nanotechnology in our daily lives raises occupational health and safety concerns that we may be unaware of when working with this new technology. AIHA supports research into the possible hazards involved with nanotechnology but suggests caution in enacting new legislation and/or regulation that might be detrimental to the health and safety of workers.

Professional Recognition/Title Protection – This issue continues to appear in the top public policy issues for AIHA, as it has since 1993. Professional recognition/title protection allows industrial hygienists and others who have met minimum educational and experience requirements (such as certified industrial hygienists and certified safety professionals) to be legally defined and recognized as competent to perform certain work without the need for additional requirements. Some form of professional recognition/title protection legislation has been enacted in 19 states, and more than 25 states have additional recognition of AIHA programs and/or definitions. AIHA continues to educate federal and state policymakers about the importance of recognizing those professionals who have received education and certification from nationally recognized and accredited organizations.

Laboratory Accreditation – Accredited laboratories are the best way to ensure that test samples of potential workplace hazards are analyzed correctly. AIHA continues working to see that the AIHA laboratory accreditation program is noted in federal and state legislation and regulation as one of the programs with national recognition and acceptance. There also is an increased need to have AIHA-accredited laboratories recognized on the international level.

OSHA – Specific Issues

  • Combustible Dust Standard
  • Ergonomics Standard
  • Cranes and Derricks Standard
  • Silica Standard
  • Indoor Air Quality

OSHA – General Issues

  • PELs – Updating
  • GHS for Classification/Labeling of Chemicals
  • Nanotechnology
  • Safety and Health Programs/Injury and Illness Prevention Programs
  • Risk Assessment

Federal/State Legislative Issues

  • PELs – Updating
  • Appropriations for OSHA, MSHA, NIOSH, EPA
  • Federal Contracting – Must comply with OSHA regulations to receive
  • GHS for Classification/Labeling of Chemicals
  • Expansion of OSHA coverage to all employees

Other Issues

AIHA also listed top public policy issues in the following areas:

  • EPA Issues – GHS for Classification/Labeling of Chemicals, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act;
  • National/International Standards – nanotechnology, establishing guideline values/setting PELs, laboratory analysis/certification and environmental/OH&S management systems;
  • Additional high-ranking standards – respiratory protection, industrial ventilation systems, risk management, noise/bioacoustics; and
  • Association Issues – collaboration with other OEHS organizations, professional ethics, standards (ANSI, ASTM, etc.) and GHS for classification/labeling of chemicals.

According to Aaron Trippler, AIHA Director of Government Affairs, the results show a few interesting trends.

“The most interesting result from this survey is probably what did not appear as a top public policy issue,” said Trippler. “The issue of emergency preparedness and response was previously one of the top issues. This latest survey did not find this issue anywhere near the top. Obviously, the further we move away from 9/11 the less importance for this issue or our members believe the issue has been sufficiently addressed.”

Trippler also pointed out that while updating PELs again appeared as one of the top issues, previous concerns about the Threshhold Limit Values from 2 years ago seem to have abated.

“Another interesting trend was the appearance of the Globally Harmonized System and nanotechnology appearing among the top issues,” he added. “These two issues continue to elicit increased interest from our members and should help us convince policymakers that these issues need to be addressed as soon as possible.”

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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