AIHA Survey Identifies Nanotech, GHS as Top Issues

Nanotechnology, adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) and updating permissible exposure limits (PELs) are among the top public policy priorities identified by members of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).

"This list of policy issues allows AIHA to focus our efforts on the priorities of our members," AIHA President Frank Renshaw, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, said. "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 members are surveyed to project the top public policy issues of concern to AIHA members and the occupational and environmental health and safety profession over the next 2 years.

AIHA members' top public policy issues for 2007-2008 are listed below.

OSHA Issues

  • Updating PELs – 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 1970s. Science in this area has matured, but the PELs have not. AIHA continues to work with OSHA and others to reach a consensus on the best way to update the PELs.
  • Material safety data sheets (MSDSs)/GHS – AIHA supports efforts to improve the accuracy of MSDSs and supports efforts to improve hazard communication for employers and employees. Such efforts also are a crucial element in protecting workers and others in case of national emergencies, according to AIHA. A major part of improving hazard communication is adoption of GHS, a measure that AIHA supports.
  • Nanotechnology – The increased use of nanotechnology for consumer products raises concerns that a clearer understanding is needed to accurately assess the occupational health and safety risks posed by working with this new technology. AIHA supports increased research into the possible hazards involved with nanotechnology.
  • Safety and health programs/injury and illness prevention programs – AIHA fully supports efforts to ensure that employers incorporate a written safety and health program into workplace policies.
  • Generic exposure assessment – AIHA supports continued guidance on the process used to determine exposure assessment. With the increased discussion about specific assessment strategies, AIHA will continue to monitor the discussions and work for assessment strategies that best protect workers.

Other OSHA issues that AIHA members find most important are hazard communication issues and pandemic preparation and response.

Legislative Issues

  • Updating PELs – Many of the PELs have not been updated at OSHA since the 1970s. According to AIHA, much of this is because of the regulatory process that, while providing for input from all stakeholders, stretches the process to a point where it takes a considerable number of years to update even one PEL. AIHA supports taking a closer look at whether or not a legislative solution may be achieved, whereby the process could be simplified for a small number of PELs that require updating.
  • Approprations for OSHA, EPA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – According to AIHA, protection of workers and research and education efforts in support of worker health and safety are not possible without adequate federal resources dedicated to the issue. While OSHA and NIOSH have fared reasonably well over the past several years, according to AIHA, continued concern over the federal budget deficit could create the need to reduce expenditures in this area. AIHA believes that OSHA and NIOSH must remain adequately funded to carry out their statutory responsibility to ensure that every worker who goes to work returns home safe and healthy. AIHA also supports adequate funding for EPA.
  • 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. While some form of professional recognition/title protection legislation has been enacted in 19 states, 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.
  • Emergency preparedness and response – AIHA supports legislative measures that further incorporate programs for emergency preparedness and response. AIHA believes that both federal and state legislation is needed to clearly define the kind of programs needed and the resources to put these programs in place.
  • Laboratory accreditation – According to AIHA, accredited laboratories perform the most accurate test sample analysis of potential workplace hazards are analyzed correctly. AIHA continues to seek recognition for its laboratory accreditation program in federal and state legislation and regulation as one of the programs with national recognition and acceptance.

Other legislative issues AIHA members find most important are GHS; expanding OSHA coverage to all public employees; and the legislative threat to limit the reference to the threshold limit values (TLVs).

Association Issues

In addition to public policy issues, AIHA members also ranked the top issues of overall importance to AIHA. The top association issues are:

  • The legislative, regulatory and legal concerns regarding the TLVs;
  • Standards, whether they be from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or other standard-setting bodies;
  • Professional ethics;
  • Collaboration with other OEHS organizations; and
  • GHS.
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