Emergency Preparedness Is Top Public Policy Issue for Industrial Hygienists

Every other year, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) surveys its members to determine what they feel are the top public policy issues they're facing. According to the survey, the top public policy issue for 2003-2004 is emergency response and preparedness (Including biological monitoring, hazard communication and risk assessment).

It should come as no surprise that emergency response and preparedness topped the list this time around, commented AIHA President Gayla J. McCluskey, CIH, CSP, ROH, QEP, although she admitted it received more interest than expected.

"The concern for emergency preparedness illustrates that OEHS professionals are more important than ever. Homeland security is as vast as the transportation system and as personal as the individual workers in need of protection. OEHS professionals are crucial to the ongoing safety of every part of our society," she said.

Other issues listed by AIHA members as being important are:

  • Updating permissible exposure limits (PELs) OSHA PELs are consensus-based limits that indicate how long an individual can be exposed to a particular substance without experiencing harmful effects. However, many PELs have not been updated since the 1970s. Science in this area has matured, but the PELs have not.
  • Exposure, inspection and remediation issues related to mold As the mold issue heats up around the country in the media, courtrooms and legislation, consumers, businesses and lawmakers are looking for sound data and information on how to handle mold. AIHA offers a brochure, "The Facts About Mold," and has monitored and commented on nearly a dozen federal and state legislative issues and has a task force looking at future activities and potential involvement.
  • OSHA reform issues including third-party workplace reviews Congress may consider reforms to a number of OSHA policies. As was the case in the 106th and the 107th Congresses, AIHA will continue to make recommendations and monitor any potential changes at OSHA that may impact occupational health and safety. AIHA hopes to play a major role in any legislation in the 108th Congress that addresses third-party workplace reviews and increases in criminal penalties for willful violations of OSHA regulations.
  • Ergonomics Many AIHA members remain convinced of the need for an ergonomics standard, yet the association supports OSHA's release of voluntary industry-specific guidelines.
  • Indoor air quality issues (other than mold) Despite the fact that the indoor air quality standard is no longer a part of the OSHA regulatory agenda, AIHA continues to monitor all indoor air quality issues.
  • Professional recognition/title protection legislation and regulation This issue has appeared in the top public policy issues for the association since 1993. Professional recognition/title protection allows industrial hygienists and others who have already met industry standards for education, or who have received certain certifications (such as Certified Industrial Hygienists) to be recognized as competent to perform certain work without the need for repetitive educational requirements. While professional recognition/title protection legislation has been enacted in 17 states, AIHA continues to assist other states with this concept, as well as promoting the qualifications and competency of the profession in other legislation (i.e., mold, lead).
  • OEHS small business assistance In the 107th Congress, legislation passed the House and a Senate committee that would have provided for competent health and safety individuals to assist small business. AIHA will continue to push for efforts to assist small business with occupational health and safety issues. AIHA is also working with OSHA to see if a program can be developed that would aid small business with some type of pro-bono assistance.
  • Injury and illness prevention programs (written) The injury and illness prevention program rulemaking at OSHA has now been removed from the regulatory agenda for the coming year. However, AIHA will continue to support this effort and push for voluntary efforts.
  • Laboratory accreditation issues Accredited laboratories are the best way to ensure that test samples from food facilities, workplaces and homes are analyzed accurately. Over the course of the last several years, AIHA has been working to see that the AIHA laboratory accreditation program is noted in federal and state legislation as one of the programs with national recognition.
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