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|Established in 1980||February 13, 2002|
|In this issue:||[Acting President's Message] | [Board Meeting Summary]|
Message from the Acting President
We have some volunteers to help out on the local Board. Rocky Rockswold has agreed to serve on the board and continue keeping our data base . James M. Dills, a new member, has agreed to also serve on the board and assist with the newsletter (a very time consuming thing). Joanne Myers, of JFM & Associates, is serving as the new CIHC representative. Robert Stepp of CIH Services, Inc. has volunteered to serve as an Alternate CIHC representative.
At the last board meeting on January 18, 2002. We have a nominating committee that is attempting to find someone to become the new president of the local chapter. The initial effort didn't work out as we had hoped and the committee is coming up with more recommendations.
HAPPENINGS FROM THE HILL (from the AIHA)
CONGRESS RETURNS WITH ELECTION ON THE HORIZON
The second session of the 107th Congress convened on January 23 with unpredictability the word of the day. Since this is an election year, Congress will carefully sidestep any issue that may ultimately result in negative press back home. Adding to this unpredictability will be the fact that both the Senate and the House may be on the line for both parties. Early odds makers do not see any shift in control, but things can change in a hurry.
For occupational health and safety, this will probably be a very quiet session. Congress has numerous issues on its plate, most notably the war on terrorism, the economy, homeland security, Enron, and in the unenviable position of a forthcoming fact of adopting a deficit budget.
The most important issue for occupational health and safety will be the 2003 budget proposal. Many stakeholders are predicting a proposal that would slash the OSHA budget by anywhere from 20 to 25 percent. While the administration will be looking for areas to cut to fund the war on terrorism and homeland security, we are not predicting this massive of a cut in the OSHA budget. History is on our side as Congress has been generous to OSHA the past few years and we do not expect this to change. While a flat-line budget may be the outcome, at this point in time we don’t foresee any substantial cuts.
There are several issues to keep your eye on in Congress. Support for codification of the VPP program is very strong and may pass. There may also be hearings on the issue of ergonomics and standard setting, but we don’t expect anything to make its way to the President. Other issues, such as elevating EPA to cabinet-level status, will probably be left on the burner at the end of what is supposed to be a session that will end in plenty of time for campaigning.
TOXIC MOLD BECOMING ISSUE
The sleeper issue in all of this may be toxic mold. With several states adopting or considering legislation to address this issue, expect a federal bill to be introduced sometime by spring. Interesting that this issue seems to have appeared overnight as far as policymaking goes. Reminds one of the rush to asbestos abatement years ago.
AIHA is closely following this issue in both the states and Congress and has provided substantial comments on several occasions. AIHA interest is two-fold. One, we are attempting to see that any legislation considered outlines the competency requirements for individuals collecting toxic mold samples. We must avoid problems from the past where individuals with a 40-hour training course are considered competent. The second issue of interest to AIHA is what to do with these samples. It makes no sense to have competent individuals collecting samples if the samples are then analyzed by “cousin Vinny’s lab” in his garage. AIHA is pushing to have language inserted in all legislation that would require these samples to be analyzed by laboratories that are nationally accredited.
STILL WAITING FOR NEWS ON ERGONOMICS
Word was that OSHA was going to announce in early January what its plans were for ergonomics. Here we are at the end of January and still nothing. Insiders expected OSHA to announce that no new standard would be forthcoming, but that OSHA would be proposing voluntary guidelines for use by employers.
While nothing definitive has been announced, many insiders are beginning to question the inaction by OSHA. These insiders predict that the longer OSHA waits, the more frustrated many members of Congress become. The downside to this for OSHA is that Congress may become so frustrated that they seriously consider legislation that would force the agency to move forward.
OSHA HEALTH AND SAFETY DIRECTORATES TO MERGE
First there were two, and then one, then two, now it looks like one again. We are talking about the OSHA health and safety standards directorates. Until a couple of years ago, there were always separate directorates, one for health and one for safety. Then Charles Jeffress proposed a pilot project where the directorates would be merged, the intention being that consolidation of standard setting would improve the process.
When John Henshaw became OSHA administrator, one of his first actions was to dissolve this pilot project and go back to two separate directorates. Now it looks as if OSHA will again go back to one consolidated office. Not quite sure why the turnaround. OSHA staff was split on the pilot project. Many thought it improved the process while others believed the pilot project was ineffective. Regardless, it now looks as if OSHA will proceed with one directorate for health and safety standards.
A SIGN OF THE TIMES
There has been substantial talk about what this administration will do when it comes to standards, rules and regulations. Most believe there will be few new proposals forthcoming from OSHA in the coming year. Good or bad? There are opinions on both sides of the issue, but another sign of where this administration plans on going appeared recently.
The OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has announced that two OSHA rules are among the regulations suggested for review by the administration to determine if less costly and less burdensome alternatives exist. The two regulations up for review are the new recordkeeping rule and regulations governing voluntary consultation programs.
AIHA URGES RECONSIDERATION OF FEDERAL PROCUREMENT ISSUE
AIHA recently sent a letter to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy recommending reconsideration of an overturned rule that would have linked the award of federal contracts to a contractor’s record of "satisfactory compliance" with health and safety rules and regs.
AIHA had appointed a task force to look at this issue and provided the White House with our recommendations. Essentially, AIHA recommended that rather than penalizing contractors for a poor health and safety record, one should provide "an edge" in the bidding process to those employers who have demonstrated good health and safety performance and programs.
AIHA recommendations would address the differing points of view on this issue. While many believed poor records should be considered when awarding contracts, many also believed that such a process could penalize those employers who had little control over subcontractors and others. The AIHA proposal would take the opposite approach by awarding positive "points" to employers with excellent health and safety records.
AIHA HOSTS OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY NETWORK
In mid-January, AIHA headquarters was the scene of a meeting of a dozen organizations involved in occupational health and safety. The meeting was the continuation of AIHA government affairs efforts to maintain an active network of organizations involved with issues of mutual concern.
Highlighting the meeting was a 45-minute presentation by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA John Henshaw. Mr. Henshaw’s presentation outlined his goals for the agency and he took questions from the group.
This was the third meeting of this loosely knit network that brings together staff from up to 20 different organizations. While no specific consensus or policy decisions were discussed, the group was very appreciative of the Assistant Secretary taking the time to appear. Most left feeling that they were a part of the occupational health and safety discussion and that such a group has much to offer. When one considers the total membership of these organizations, either individual or business, there are more than 125,000 members.
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NOTE: We are looking to go to an all electronic newsletter distribution. Please provide us with your current e-mail address so we can keep you informed.
From Our Last Board Meeting....The Board met on January 18, 2002. The following items were discussed:
Budget: We currently have $3570.00 in our bank account. We have paid CIHC for the year 2001 but only had 45 members pay dues for 2001. We have been sending letters and e-mails out to around 120 listed members, ex-members and others. We need to improve the dues paying. In conjunction with that effort if members do not pay dues by June 1, 2002 we will quit sending them e-mails and letters.
February 21 "I. H. Field Laboratory at Sacramento Recycling Center"
students from Sac State, U. C. Davis and U. C. Berkeley invited
March 21 - "Bloodborne Pathogens"
April 18 "Sampling and Analytical Error"
May 20 or 21 "Past Presidents Luncheon"with AIHA Board to meet with members and on "AIHA and other issues"
June 2002 - AIHCE in San Diego
September - Ron Wilson, San Francisco Airport on "Public Relations" (tentative)
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It was first posted on February 24, 2002.