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OSHA proposes changing rulemaking for job risk assessement

09.23.08

September 2008 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

OSHA proposes changing rulemaking for job risk assessement

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, September 2nd- The United States Department of Labor (DOL) proposes to establish procedures to allow the public to see exactly what goes into risk assessments for health standards for regulating occupational exposure to toxins.

The DOL proposal will ensure that the best and latest available evidence and scientific data are used when conducting risk assessments in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act.

According to information provided by OSHA, the department currently does not have comprehensive regulations or formal internal guidance outlining consistent risk assessment procedures. The proposed regulation implements recommendations of a 1997 presidential/congressional commission that criticized the department for relying on “a case-by-case approach for performing risk assessment and risk characterization,” and recommended that the department explain its scientific and policy defaults with regard to risk assessment.

The agency believes the proposal will compile the DOL existing practices into a single, easy to reference public regulation and includes:

• Issuance of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in order to cast a wide net for available information from the public.

• Collection of the best available scientific data for the agency to consider, including industry-by-industry exposure data where available.

• Electronic posting of all documents related to a health standard rulemaking to promote greater public input, awareness and transparency of the information underlying the department’s health rulemakings.

The DOL stated the proposal gives the department’s scientists and technical experts the necessary latitude to exercise their professional discretion and to modify their assessments as science evolves, while ensuring that the department’s process is fully accountable and transparent to the public.

The ANPRM process is not new to the agency. OSHA has included an ANPRM in the last three health standards it promulgated, including two that were started more than 20 years ago. DOL said this important process ensures that those responsible for drafting the standards have the best available scientific information to produce a thorough and accurate risk assessment that effectively protests workers.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.

According to OSHA, the agency’s role is to promote the safety and health of workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training; outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in work place safety and health.

OSHA’s area office is located in Wilkes-Barre and David Martin, Assistant Area Director can be contacted at: 570.826.6538, extension 18.

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