Complimenting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its "foresight to provide consistency with federal rules and standards pertaining to worker exposure to asbestos," the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) recently commented on the agency''s proposed Asbestos Worker Protection rule.
In a letter this week to the EPA''s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, AIHA President Steven P. Levine, Ph.D., CIH2, made several recommendations designed to strengthen certain provisions of the rule. In addition to these comments, the association praised EPA for working closely with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to dovetail the proposed rule with OSHA''s asbestos standards for construction and for general industry.
Levine''s letter made several comments and suggestions concerning EPA''s rule:
- AIHA supports provisions in the proposed rule that would protect state and local government employees from the health risks of asbestos exposure. Private-sector workers already receive these protections based on OSHA''s asbestos standards.
- AIHA supports increased funding to EPA and OSHA for enforcement, an issue not addressed by the proposed ruling. Extending coverage of asbestos protections to thousands of workers will add costs in terms of staff, training and oversight. The association is concerned that this lack of enforcement language and budget could make the ruling difficult to carry out.
- AIHA recommends EPA cross-reference OSHA''s guidelines for laboratories qualified to analyze bulk samples in asbestos-abatement cases. The 1994 OSHA ruling recognizes the validity of several accredited laboratory settings, including those from the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) or those accredited by AIHA itself. The proposed EPA ruling includes only NIST-certified labs. The AIHA program, supported by OSHA, includes NIST and NVLAP laboratories in its certification, however, and is more stringent in its requirements.
- AIHA recommends EPA expand its definition of a "competent person" in asbestos-abatement cases. EPA''s rule requires a certified industrial hygienist or licensed professional engineer to make determinations in most asbestos-abatement cases. The association notes, however, that OSHA''s final rule on occupational exposure to asbestos goes much further and includes definitions of industrial hygienist and certified industrial hygienist clarifying the qualifications of the required "competent person."
According to Levine''s letter, these recommendations should help EPA and OSHA get "on the same page" regarding asbestos abatement and bolster both agencies'' efforts to extend protection to more U.S. workers. As he noted, "this effort speaks volumes on how federal agencies can work together to alleviate government bureaucracy and provide greater health and safety to workers."
EPA is accepting comments on its proposed rule, Asbestos Worker Protection, which was published April 27 in the Federal Register.
by Todd Nighswonger