OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today identified 18 priority safety and health hazards in need of either regulatory or nonregulatory action.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear and Linda Rosenstock, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), presented results of OSHA's priority planning process at a meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).
"OSHA has had substantial success in fulfilling its mission of preventing deaths, injuries and illnesses in the workplace, but important gaps remain," Dear said. "Our resources are scarce and expected to remain so. Therefore, we must focus national attention and agency efforts where they are most needed and will be most useful."
"NIOSH is pleased to have made important scientific and technical contributions to the OSHA planning process," said Rosenstock. "This is a wonderful example of NIOSH and OSHA working together."
OSHA's priority planning process expresses its intent to fill many of the gaps by identifying unmet safety and health needs and establishing plans to deal with them through rulemaking and by leveraging the private sector to undertake voluntary interventions.
These new priorities supplement rather than replace OSHA's on-going activities. They involve preventable problems that are responsible for a large number of injuries and illnesses (or in some cases that pose particularly high risk to a small group) but currently receive inadequate attention from government agencies or organizations in the private sector.
Five of the new priorities have been chosen for rulemaking.
Noise/hearing conservation in construction and other noncovered industries
Permissible exposure limits for air contaminants (continuation of activity)
Electric power transmission and distribution in construction
These priorities will be added to OSHA's regulatory calendar as other standards now on the calendar are completed and resources become available.
For all the other priorities, OSHA will work with business, labor, the professional community and its state plan partners to encourage worker protection without developing new rules at this time. In some cases interventions may involve OSHA's use of its existing authority, as well as program initiatives recently announced by President Clinton that provide incentives to employers who effectively find and fix hazards. In most cases, the current approaches to the new priorities will be voluntary and informational.
The priorities for such nonregulatory action are:
Commercial diving safety
Crane hoist safety
Motor vehicle safety
Occupational asthma (including an emphasis on latex allergy)
Oil and gas well drilling and servicing
Synthetic mineral fibers
Welding, cutting, and brazing
OSHA's priority planning process was initiated in 1994. It included work by a priority planning committee with experts in safety and health from OSHA, NIOSH, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Labor's Office of the Solicitor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
The committee reviewed available information on occupational fatalities, injuries and illnesses and held an extensive dialogue with stakeholders such as representatives of labor, industry, professional and academic organizations, state plan designees, voluntary standards organizations and the public. The committee also received recommendations from NACOSH and the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH).
More than 125 hazards were nominated by individual stakeholders and agency staff. The committee adopted a combined qualitative and quantitative approach in selecting the hazards that should be given the greatest priority.
The committee first applied four major criteria to the various hazards:
The seriousness of the hazard
The number of workers exposed or the magnitude of the risk
The quality of available risk information
The potential for risk reduction
These criteria were then supplemented with three others so the committee could consider whether rulemaking is appropriate. The additional criteria are:
Administrative efficiency or feasibility
Other public policy considerations (such as intensity of public concern and public perception of the hazard)
The 18 hazards were selected because they best met the combination of criteria for designation as priorities. When the new priorities are combined with issues being addressed by existing programs they cover many of the nation's leading occupational safety and health threats.
Dear and Rosenstock jointly reviewed and approved the final list. Because many of the OSHA priorities will affect and depend on NIOSH research, OSHA has invited NIOSH to take a leadership role in developing research-related activities which will augment the action plans for these priorities. The results of the priority planning process will be an important consideration as NIOSH works with its stakeholders to develop the national occupational research agenda, a project designed to set priorities for workplace research over the next decade.
OSHA will convene another stakeholder meeting to discuss the 18 priority hazards as well as to identify the six priority issues the agency should address in the initial implementation phase, and the ones that should be addressed in subsequent phases.
After these discussions, OSHA will draft action plans for the first six issues and will convene a symposium with interested stakeholders to discuss the draft action plans before final revisions and implementation.
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