InsideHealthPolicy.com, July 16, 2002.
In an exclusive interview...AIHA's McCluskey Says Revision Of OSH Act Needed To Fix Rulemaking Process
The American Industrial Hygiene Association's
(AIHA) new president says that in order to improve OSHA's rulemaking process,
the OSH Act will have to be revised.
In an exclusive interview with Inside OSHA,
Gayla McCluskey argues that "in the long term, [revising the OSH Act] will
definitely be necessary" to fix the rulemaking process. McCluskey added that
while AIHA's plan to update OSHA's permissible exposure limits (PELs) does not
alter the current rulemaking process, in order to make the rulemaking process more
efficient changes will have to be made to the OSH Act. The new AIHA president also
said that the group is "thrilled" by Rep. Charles Norwood's (R-GA) interest in
updating the PELs as well as the National Association of Manufacturers' (NAM)
support of the effort.
McCluskey replaced former President Henry Lick on June 6.
She has been a member of AIHA since 1980 and was formerly the group's vice president
and director. Her term as president ends in June 2003.
The text of the interview follows.
Inside OSHA: AIHA has been a major player in the effort to update the PELs. What do you
think of Rep. Norwood's interest in the issue and how will his input impact the success
of your plan? How does NAM's support of Norwood's efforts factor into the debate?
McCluskey: I am thrilled to hear [that NAM is supportive] and we were also thrilled to
hear that Rep. Norwood is interested in getting this off the dime, so to speak. I think
most people in the safety and health profession, regardless of who they work for or which
side of the aisle they sit on, agree that the PELs were based on 1968 numbers that were
based on scientific studies done earlier, which is really a problem. I know that when OSHA
tried to update them in 1989, the vast majority of the changes were pretty
non-controversial. It really fell down to a handful of chemicals that caused that
regulation to be thrown out. I am excited about it and I think there is a lot of energy
out there; I am pleased to hear NAM is supporting it. We've been working in our little
group to reach consensus and we pretty much have arrived there. We would be interested
now in speaking with NAM and the [U.S.] Chamber [of Commerce] and other organizations
and find out what their concerns would be.
Inside OSHA: Can you give me a brief outline
of the consensus plan from the AIHA working group?
McCluskey: Basically, what we are
looking at is pulling data together from the voluntary standards that exist right now and
having that reviewed by an advisory committee as well as asking for input from industry
in terms of the data they have. I come from the corporate side of the business and
within the voluntary consensus process there isn't really a great opportunity for
you to get your data submitted because a lot of it has never been published. So, we
would want that information to be submitted also. Then it would be looked at and
decisions would be made as to whether numbers were valid, supported scientifically
and whether there was evidence that [the numbers] are feasible. For the ones that
people are in agreement, we would have updated standards.
Inside OSHA: Is the voluntary
standard setting process dead? Has the American Conference of Governmental Industrial
Hygienists legal problems tarnished voluntary standard setting and rendered the
threshold limit values irrelevant?
McCluskey: I don't know. Voluntary standards
development is not only time-consuming but it is also expensive. I was surprised how
much [the National Safety Council] has basically spent on the [American National
Standards Institute (ANSI)] ergonomics standard, which they have been working on for
several years. I think it is important to set guidelines of good practice for your
profession and it is important that they be developed in an ANSI-like format, but how
much further we get into actually becoming the secretary over various standards would
be difficult for me to say right now. There is a need for voluntary standards because
the government can't and shouldn't regulate everything by any means. But on the flip
side, there is a need for governmental standards too because if you continue to rely on
consensus standards only they become very important and more controversial and subject
Inside OSHA: The rulemaking process is long and difficult to manipulate.
Former AIHA President Henry Lick testified in front of Norwood's committee on the
rulemaking process and voluntary consensus standards and he said that changes had to
made in the OSH Act. Do you support that and what kind of reform is needed in the OSH
Act to make rulemaking more feasible?
McCluskey: I think his exact quote was that the
process was "broken." What we are looking at here is not opening up the OSH Act in the
effort we are discussing right now. In the long term, that will definitely be necessary.
But that is not what we are going for at this point in time and I think everybody is
in agreement that we are not interested in opening up the OSH Act at this time.
Inside OSHA: In the long term, what kind of changes would you like to see? Would you like to
see a more streamlined and easier standard setting process?
McCluskey: Absolutely, as
long as its transparent, open and on public record. When we first started our
conversations about a PEL update, and I think everybody still feels this way, we [wanted]
to do it in two phases. Maybe we can raise the baseline in phase one and if we are
successful then we can go forward with some different models for standard setting.
One of our meetings last fall, we brought in a number of folks to talk about various
[standard setting] models to just talk about options and to realize there are different
models out there that are successful and could be worthy of consideration.
We've seen two regulatory agendas now that have been sparse compared to the Clinton
administration. Labor sources argue that the Bush administration does not seem eager
to do a lot of rulemakings. Where is OSHA headed under OSHA Administrator John Henshaw
and the Bush administration?
McCluskey:I'll have to say first of all that we are
thrilled to have John [Henshaw] heading up the agency. We couldn't have a nicer or
more qualified person over there. Regarding the agenda, John [Henshaw] comes from
the corporate world where you set out your performance objectives and you meet them.
I know that is the way he is looking at the regulatory agenda. He keeps reminding
people that the things on there are going to be finished. I think that is the basis
for the more pared down regulatory agenda.
Inside OSHA: What do you think the primary
role of OSHA's new ergonomics committee is and what kind of impact do you think it
will have on the current debate? Will it be able to fill in the research gaps as
intended by the agency?
McCluskey: I think the key thing is who they decide to put
on the committee. AIHA has lent support to four people that have already submitted
their nominations. I think it is important to have a balance of folks with specific
expertise in the ergonomics area, but also some end users on there to bring us back
into the real world.
Inside OSHA: What do you think AIHA's role, as a bipartisan
professional group, is in the ergo debate? Will AIHA abandoned its calls for a
McCluskey: We would obviously prefer to have a standard, but the political
reality right now is that we're going to have guidelines. We're very interested in
participating in what way we can, either nominating folks to the advisory committee
or actually working on the development of industry specific guidelines.
AIHA supported the passage of the Breaux bill on ergonomics. What is AIHA's opinion
on the future of the bill? Sources have indicated that it could be attached to the
appropriations bill. However, Sen. Michael Enzi (R-WY) already said he would filibuster
such a strategy. Where do you hope to see the Breaux bill go?
McCluskey: We support
an ergonomics standard. We are supportive of Sen. [John] Breaux's (D-LA) effort in
this area. Our one concern with the bill is the short time frame and whether or
not that can be accomplished or not. I have not heard anything about the political
issues surrounding it going to the floor or being attached to something else,
so I can't comment on that.
Inside OSHA: Besides ergonomics, what other hazards
should OSHA address?McCluskey: My personal opinion along those lines is to look
at the health and safety programs standard. Obviously, that would affect every
business in the United States and would pretty much lay out a basic health and
safety program. That would be very worthwhile. There are other hazards out there
that need to be addressed, but they are more finite.Inside OSHA: What is the
future of AIHA and what are your goals?
McCluskey: I have some specific goals
for the year and they really pertain to bringing the association back to
focusing on its strategic plan. The last couple of years we have been pretty
internally focused hiring a new executive director and voting on name changes
to various things. We've abandoned our strategic focus, so I think it is
important we begin a multi-year planning process, which will begin in August,
and decide where we need to be and how we get there. Unfortunately, when you
focus just on a one-year plan you never bite off the more difficult things
because a lot of issues cannot be solved or accomplished in one year.
Inside OSHA: What are some of these issues and goals? What are you going to focus
on and what do you think AIHA's role is?
McCluskey: We talked for a number
of years about how our membership is broadly practicing in the safety and
environmental arena, while most of our programming continues to focus on
industrial hygiene. We need to expand our products and services to provide
support to our members in day-to-day practice. Another issue we've talked
about at length is out international role and what is our international
opportunity as manufacturing goes overseas, what role are our members playing
in protecting the health and safety of folks in various countries and what do
we need to do for them in that area. I recently attended the American Insurance
Association conference on mold and obviously that is another field of science that
is not well formed right now. Our members have opinions on mold across the board
from it being very bad to not being so bad at all. We have the expertise to kind
of save the science and contribute the knowledge that we have now. I am afraid
that if we do not step forward and do that it is going to be regulated on a
state-by-state basis like asbestos and lead. Texas, because of all of the litigation
and insurance claims down there, is really stepping up to develop some guidelines
and I think it is important that we help participate in doing that.
Date: July 16, 2002 © Inside Washington Publishers
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follow language: This article originally appeared in InsideHealthPolicy.com,
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