AIHA Sends Comments on SAFE Act to Enzi

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) believes that S.B. 2719 the SAFE Act (Safety Advancement for Employees Act of 2004) is a "step in the right direction to improve the Occupational Safety and Health Act," says AIHA President Donna Doganiero.

The SAFE Act, sponsored by Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R., Wyo.) is "an opportunity to make valuable changes in the way OSHA oversees worker health and safety in the United States," Doganiero added.

AIHA provided Enzi with extensive comments on the SAFE Act, the most significant of which focused on third-party consultation services, discretionary compliance assistance and hazard communication.

As stated in AIHA's letter to Enzi, there are more than 6 million workplaces under OSHA jurisdiction, while the federal and state OSHA programs have just over 2,000 compliance officers. AIHA believes OSHA's goal should be to ensure that every employer has routine assessments of their facilities conducted by a competent health and safety professional, such as a certified industrial hygienist or a certified safety professional, to identify and correct health and safety violations. AIHA believes that third-party assistance can directly contribute to achieving this goal.

AIHA's letter comments on factors of third-party consultation services such as eligibility, geographical scope, limitation based on experience, safety and health registry, disciplinary actions, requirements for safety and health program, reinspection, and exemption from civil penalties for compliance.

In its comments, AIHA strongly supported the idea that worker health and safety could be maintained or improved by working closely with employers to correct hazards in the workplace without citations or fines. If health and safety goals can be achieved without citations, AIHA feels that employers will look to OSHA for future assistance in regards to workplace health and safety and cultivate a more effective partnership with the agency. "The SAFE Act includes several promising vehicles for compliance assistance, including the codification of the Voluntary Protection Programs and a pilot program to provide expedited consultation services in three states," said AIHA in a statement.

Improving communication and literature concerning exposure to hazardous chemicals in the workplace is a welcome addition to the SAFE Act, added AIHA. It is the association's opinion that addressing concerns regarding inaccurate, incomplete and outdated material safety data sheets is an important step in decreasing risks of illness and injury. AIHA also supports the establishment of a commission to consider the adoption of the Globally Harmonized System in the United States.

In the letter to Senator Enzi, AIHA also includes comment on the following issues:

  • Establishment of a special advisory committee to assist with establishing a consultation services program
  • Continuing education and professional certification for OSHA personnel
  • Expanded inspection methods
  • Worksite-specific compliance methods
  • Criminal penalties for fatalities related to willful violations of OSHA regulations.
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