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National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health

Minutes of February 27-28, 2003 Meeting

U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20210

Acting Chair, Judith Freyman, opened the meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 27, 2003. About 35 members of the public were in attendance.

Ron Hayes Public Founder, Families in Grief Hold Together
Letitia K. Davis, Sc.D Public Director, Occ. Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Vickie Wells, MS Public Director Occupational Safety and Health San Francisco Department of Public Health
Peter DeLuca, JD Public Administrator, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division
Judith S. Freyman Mgmt. Director, Western Occ. Safety and Health Operations, ORC, Inc
Susan Eckerly Mgmt. Vice President, Federal Public Policy, National Federation of Independent Business
Donald Carson Labor Center Director, Hazmat Program, International Union of Operating Engineers
Richard Duffy, M.Sc Labor Assistant to the General President, International Association of Fire Fighters
Rixio E. Medina Safety Manager, Health and Safety Services CITGO Petroleum Corporation
James Stanley Safety VP, Safety and Health, AK Steel
James Blessman, MD, MPH Health Assistant Professor, Wayne State University
Julia Faucett, RN, Ph.D., FAAN Health Professor and Director, Occupational Health Nursing Program, University of California

Updates by Agency Heads, John Henshaw and Dr. John Howard

Immediately after opening the meeting, the Acting Chair, Judith Freyman, turned the meeting over to Mr. Henshaw. Following his welcome address, Mr. Henshaw briefly discussed the terms of appointments, the basis of the committee's selection, and the role of the committee. At the conclusion of his remarks, Mr. Henshaw turned the meeting over to Dr. Howard. Dr. Howard provided brief comments about the role the committee can play in assisting NIOSH.

The next segment of the agenda included agency updates by both agency heads. Mr. Henshaw informed the committee that one of the messages that OSHA is delivering is the value of occupational safety and health. He emphasized that the agency is not embarking on a new philosophy but rather a focused philosophy. Mr. Henshaw also talked about the agency's leadership strategy to take responsibility for workplace safety and health regardless of the circumstances. He told the committee that OSHA's leadership strategy will focus on basically three areas: strong, effective, fair enforcement, expansion of OSHA's cooperative programs and partnerships and expansion of compliance assistance and education outreach. His presentation also included a brief discussion about OSHA's new training facility. Further, he indicated OSHA would be releasing information about its strategy to improve the quality of the agency's compliance officers. Additionally, he told the committee that OSHA would be announcing how it will address the recalcitrant employer. Mr. Henshaw also informed the committee that OSHA would not drop what's being done or change its direction unless there was a compelling reason to do so. He also briefed the committee about the agency's revised organizational structure and the major program activities associated with each Directorate.

In concluding his overview of OSHA's programs, Mr. Henshaw informed the committee that the agency needed to be proactive in its thinking about trends, where the country is going, how we can avoid fatalities, injuries and illnesses in the hard to reach populations, such as, the Hispanics and immigrant population. The committee was asked to maximize their time by forming workgroups to focus on no more than 3 issues. Mr. Henshaw emphasized his interest in developing a workgroup to focus on worker safety and health issues impacting Hispanics and immigrants. He suggested the committee collaborate with OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health to organize a summit on safety and health issues facing these workers.

Dr. Howard's overview included a discussion of the four NIOSH strategic Goals: research, surveillance, prevention and intervention, and information and training. During his overview, he highlighted some of the findings from the NIOSH funded BLS survey of respirator use. He also talked about the use of data obtained by NIOSH to track progress on injuries to adolescent workers. His discussion also focused on the NIOSH partnership with the University of North Carolina and Harvard to develop the National Organizational Survey, which will provide information to help us better understand and assess the impact of changes in work organization on employee health and safety.

One of the areas he asked the committee to consider is how NIOSH can do better in terms of partnering with others to accomplish bringing research from the laboratory bench to the workplace itself, testing whether theories developed in basic research can actually produce positive changes in the workplace. Dr. Howard indicated that it is very difficult in a short period of time to provide the committee with an accurate picture of NIOSH's research. To obtain a more detailed and accurate picture, he encouraged the committee to check the NIOSH web site about its research efforts.

Dr. Howard also talked about the National Occupational Research Agenda, which encompasses 21 priority areas for research. During his discussion, the committee was invited to attend the 2003 NORA Symposium in Arlington, Virginia on June 23 and 24. The committee was also briefed about the Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program. To date, NIOSH has conducted 220 investigations of firefighter deaths and disseminated 179 investigation reports.

As far as education, Dr. Howard indicated that this is an area in which all of the committee members can help NIOSH better focus its resources. He informed the committee about the redesigning of the NIOSH home page, the launching of new topic pages and the agency's collaborative work with OSHA to combine resources in developing a combination of topical pages for the web site.

In addition to updating the committee about its web-based information and toolbox training, Dr. Howard talked about the use of computer-based simulation in safety and health training. He indicated that NIOSH would be happy to obtain any feedback from the committee on the new area of simulation training. He also mentioned a few of the special projects that NIOSH is involved in such as the project with the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City to assess the symptoms and possible long term health effects by workers and volunteers at the World Trade Center. His update also included a brief discussion about NIOSH's responsibilities to certify respirators. Dr. Howard also talked about the collaborative work of both agencies on workplace violence.

Q and A's

Mr. Hayes raised his concern about the big gap in the fair part of enforcement. He indicated he believes the field compliance officer hasn't gotten the message about fair enforcement. And he is concerned about small businesses being put out of business. He is also interested in knowing whether OSHA can increase resources to help state plan states facing budget problems.

Mr. Hayes also raised his concern about training organizations in each state (i.e., insufficient outreach by the organizations and more oversight of organizations). In responding to one of the points raised about state funding, Mr. Deluca pointed out that there are states that cannot match, to the extent that they need to, the amount that is currently available from the federal government. He wondered whether the 50/50 formula could be changed in any way.

Mr. Hayes also raised concern about MSDS and whistleblower protection.

Dr. Faucett discussed her interest in learning more about OSHA's impact and outcome evaluations with i.e., evaluation methodologies and the systems used to evaluate different programs.

Dr. Letitia Davis pointed out the importance of evaluating the validity and reliability of statistics used to evaluate OSHA's activities. Additionally, she supported the possibility that the committee could play a role in evaluation and comment on the revisions to the IMIS database. Her comment also included a suggestion that the issue be placed on the committee's agenda. Additionally, Dr. Davis asked Mr. Henshaw to explain the impact of the budget cut on OSHA's training grants.

Ms. Susan Eckerly asked Mr. Henshaw to explain the process or mechanism within the alliance programs and partnerships that OSHA plans to use to evaluate SHARPS or VPP. As explained by Mr. Henshaw, the ultimate outcome measure will be the impact on how injuries and illnesses are impacted (i.e., did it produce the impact OSHA expected).

Mr. Stanley asked OSHA to provide its statistics on state plan inspections as well as fatality data. Mr. Stanley indicated that he had serious concerns that principles, as set forth by the federal government, are sometimes not consistent within the state plans. Further, he indicated that since they have companies within those state plans, they wanted to know the differences and be able to address the differences. He added that he believes that any advice regarding the effectiveness and overall programs of OSHA should be transmitted to the states.

Mr. Duffy addressed two issues. First, he wanted to address the capability of workers in the US to respond to any terrorist or weapons of mass destruction incidents and how both agencies need to address the issue. He pointed out that although there are two manufacturers that have breathing devices (respirators) there are no devices in the field for workers to protect themselves from chemical/biological agents. He added that while workers have been provided escape masks the masks had as much protection as a styrofoam cup. Additionally, the devices being used have not been evaluated or certified by NIOSH. He also raised concerns about adequate personal protective clothing. He stated that no one has them in the field because no one is buying them since there are no regulatory requirements or advisory information from the agencies that are supposed to protect workers on the issue. The second concern he raised was the silence of OSHA and NIOSH on the smallpox issue.

NIOSH Presentations

Dr. Bill Eschenbacher, Chief, Surveillance Branch, provided the committee with a presentation of NIOSH's strategic surveillance activities. During the Q & A session, Tish Davis raised a point about occupational work-related asthma in health care workers, Richard Duffy wanted to know whether NIOSH plans to address the personal protective equipment (PPE) issue in their survey and Julia Faucett wanted to know whether there is a plan in the survey to collect information from professionals in the health care industry, such as, the occupational health nurses, physicians, industrial hygienists, and safety personnel. Tim Pizatella, Deputy Director, Division of Safety Research, provided the committee with an overview of the NIOSH Face and Firefighter Fatality Investigation Programs. Several members of the committee commended NIOSH on the FACE program. The committee was also interested in the availability of electronic reports, dissemination of information to various associations, and the criteria used to determine which fatalities are investigated.

Dr. Paul Schulte, Director, Education and Information Division, briefed the committee about NIOSH's communication efforts. During the question and answer segment, the committee was interested in the systems in place to distribute information on safety and health issues. Concern was raised about the inability to disseminate information to the workforce that actually needs the information such as the Hispanic workforce at the right time. Dr. Schulte indicated NIOSH is working to fix some of the information dissemination problems by viewing their efforts within a larger workplace safety and health context and focusing downstream from research.

Dr. Schulte also briefed the committee about the partnership developed with the National Academy of Sciences to help them determine approaches to reaching Hispanic workers. Concern was also raised about illiterate workers. The committee was informed that NIOSH has a number of projects underway that will assess ways to reach low literacy populations. A point was also raised about information dissemination to non-occupational health professionals and possible efforts underway to make information more PDA friendly.

OSHA Presentations

Steven Witt, Director, Standards and Guidance, briefed the committee on OSHA's regulatory issues. He provided the committee with details about the projects the agency is working on, OSHA's regulatory agenda, and the changes in his duties and responsibilities as a result of OSHA's reorganization. Copies of his presentation were requested and provided to the committee. The committee raised questions about the status of OSHA's PPE regulation, SBREFA, the guidance document on reactive chemical facilities, exit route standard, the National Electrical Code, the proportion of OSHA's budget devoted to standards, ergo guidelines for the poultry industry. Trish Davis expressed her concern about regulations such as the ergo standard and the safety and health program rule being removed from the agency's regulatory agenda.

Paula White, Director, Cooperative and State Programs, briefed the committee on OSHA's compliance assistance and partnership programs with a particular focus on cooperative and voluntary programs. Copies of Ms. White's presentation were provided to the committee. At the conclusion of the presentation, the committee raised the following issue: the identification of any mechanisms in place to help subsidize OSHA training.

Richard Fairfax, Director, Enforcement Programs, provided an overview of OSHA's enforcement program, and the training, education and development of OSHA's compliance staff. Copies of the presentation were provided to the committee. At the conclusion of the briefing the committee raised the following issues: the number of general duty ergo citations issued; OSHA's plans to encourage consistency by emphasizing the certification of compliance officers and targeting improvements in the Site Specific Targeting by both federal and state compliance officers. Concern was expressed about the resources available to handle OSHA's 14 responsibilities under the Whistleblower Act. Interest was expressed by the committee in hearing about OSHA's changes to the IMIS database that will be used to help OSHA improve targeting and identify recalcitrant employers, etc. Concern was also expressed about the level of attention that has been paid to the meat packing industry.

Ruth McCully, Director, Science, Technology and Medicine, provided the committee with an overview of the OSHA's homeland security activities. Copies of Ms. McCully's presentation were provided to the committee. The committee indicated an interest in assisting the Administration (OSHA/NIOSH) on the issue of homeland security response, protective clothing, and other issues. Ms. McCully informed the committee that it would be useful to have their input on outreach to youth employers.

Proposed Areas of Assistance to NIOSH

At the conclusion of the overviews provided by OSHA, Dr. John Howard briefed the committee about proposed areas of assistance to NIOSH. Dr. Howard indicated information dissemination was the top item on his agenda. He also indicated NIOSH was interested in receiving the committee's help on the following issues: prioritizing its research efforts; alerting NIOSH about research or information gaps that exist; specific areas where OSHA and NIOSH should collaborate; emerging areas of communication and education such as distance learning; and how best to disseminate information based on the population characteristics.

Proposed Areas of Assistance to OSHA

In response to comments from the committee, Mr. Henshaw restated the role of the committee. In discussing the committee's role, he pointed out that OSHA could use their advice to learn how it can be effective on its current course or advising OSHA if it's off course. He also reaffirmed the agency's position that its current direction would not be changed or dropped without a compelling reason (i.e., going in the wrong direction). Mr. Henshaw asked the committee to look at the validity of data sources as well as how to target resources and provide OSHA with advice around the data quality issues, lost day case rate versus severity rate, or targeting. He also indicated OSHA and NIOSH are interested in receiving the committee's advice on the general topic of increased collaboration between NIOSH and OSHA which he pointed out is a theoretical concept at best that has to be actualized through many different types of activities. Mr. Henshaw also reiterated his concern about the Hispanic issue. He suggested the committee develop a workgroup to address the issues surrounding the topic. Once the workgroup has gathered information on the topic, such as, issues around employee/employer relationships; how we can get Hispanic employers to understand their obligations as an employer in this country; and how we can establish a greater degree of trust so that immigrant workers know that we're concerned about safety and health not their immigrant status, he asked the committee to advise OSHA on where it should be going on this issue.

Committee Discussion - Next Steps

During the committee discussion regarding their proposed next steps, the committee identified the following topics of interest for the next meeting:

Info on barriers to Safety and Health Program Standard

  • Where did the rule go and why

Review of Reg agenda

  • Discussion of roadblocks to agenda

Update on MSDSs by OSHA Task Force

Update on Whistleblower Program (actions taken)

NIOSH report on activities at the National Personal Protective Technology Lab

Enforcement: report on current targeting program for fed and state
Description of OSHA's Data Initiative

Richard Duffy made a motion urging OSHA to be involved in the issues associated with the Administration's smallpox vaccination initiative. The motion was seconded, but no vote was taken after Mr. Henshaw indicated that he would consider the committee's concerns.

In response to the request for assistance by OSHA and NIOSH, the committee agreed to form three workgroups to focus on the following issues: Hispanic and immigrant workers, evaluation and targeting and information dissemination. Each workgroup will present their initial report at the next committee meeting. The committee was advised that internal agency experts will be identified by OSHA and NIOSH to support the issues, supply the committee with papers, or provide guidance as requested. The chairpersons and members of each group are listed below:

Hispanic/Immigrant Workers Workgroup
Workgroup Chair - Donald Carson
Ron Hayes
Judith Freyman
Rixio Medina

Evaluation and Targeting Workgroup
Workgroup Chair - Dr. Julia Faucett
Pete DeLuca
Tish Davis
Jim Stanley

Information Dissemination Workgroup
Workgroup Chair - Dr. James Blessman
Vickie Wells
Susan Eckerly
Richard Duffy

Following a brief wrap-up by the Acting Chair, the committee proposed three dates as possible options for the next committee meeting and the meeting was adjourned. The proposed dates for the next meeting are:

May 29 & 30
June 11 & 12
July 9 and 10