On June 22, 2021, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) met by teleconference and WebEx for the first time this calendar year. The meeting, which lasted approximately four hours, was a condensed version of a meeting that is typically spread over two days.
The meeting was opened by Andy Levinson, Deputy Director, OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance, and lead by Anne Soiza, Committee chair, who offered opening remarks and asked those on the Advisory Committee and in attendance to introduce themselves and to give a brief background of themselves. Ms. Soiza also gave a brief history of NACOSH and discussed the charge to the committee, which is to advise, and make recommendations to the secretaries of labor and health and human services on matters relating to the Occupational Safety and Health Act including regulatory, compliance assistance and enforcement issues through the participation in workgroups.
The agenda included: remarks from the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. John Howard; an ethics review and training presentation by Vanessa Myers, ethics attorney with the Office of the Solicitor; an OSHA update from Acting Assistant Secretary James Frederick; a presentation on Occupational Heat Illness Prevention, from by Ashley Bieniek-Tabasco and Augusta Williams, and, an OSHA Safety and Health Programs Development, presented by Pam Barkley and Lisa Long.Vanessa Myers presented the Committee with an overview of the ethics rules to which they are subject while serving on NACOSH. While most of the members are not employees of the federal government, they are still expected to uphold a standard of conduct that ensures public trust in the integrity of the government and its processes. Ms. Myers outlined the key rules that federal advisory committee members are expected to follow, including the prohibition from misusing government affiliation, resources, and information. Additionally, members were strongly encouraged to disclose any conflicts of interest to the Agency and to keep separate government work from their private work and/or political activities.
Dr. John Howard, Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, provided an update on NIOSH operations, budget and goals. He noted that NIOSH is statutory partners with OSHA and MSHA and works with them toward mutual health and safety goals. He also briefly noted the work NIOSH is doing in the areas of robotics, work and fatigue, extramural research, health hazard evaluation programs. Regarding the COVID-19 response, Dr. Howard discussed NIOSH’s response, noting that 145 million Americans have been vaccinated. He also discussed the need for ongoing research and development related to barrier face coverings (BFCs).
Next, James Frederick, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health presented on multiple topics. He opened by noting the importance of the contributions to OSHA by stakeholders such as the advisory committee which brings perspective and expertise from various industries. He also noted that OSHA is celebrating 50 years of bring safety to the workplace.
Of substance, Mr. Frederick discussed the how OSHA has responded to the pandemic by providing guidance and a roadmap to help businesses decrease risk and improve worker safety. In addition, OSHA considered and issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect workers most vulnerable, specifically, those in healthcare settings. Mr. Frederick stated that the Spring 2021 regulatory agenda reflects the Biden Administration’s priorities with renewed focus on improving working conditions related to workplace safety and health. In addition, OSHA has included rulemaking on Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings to its regulatory agenda and plans to issue a Request for Information on this topic. Mr. Frederick further discussed OSHA’s commitment to improve working conditions related to workplace safety; ensuring that workers are empowered to speak-up about workplace health and safety concerns; engaging employee involvement in safety and health for their workplace; and ensuring workers receive training in a language they understand. Finally, Mr. Frederick discussed the budget in broad terms and specifically noted that OSHA recently announced the availability of $10,000,000 for Susan Harwood Training Grants to cover emerging hazards in a post-pandemic economy, such as increased workplace heat hazards in the face of global climate change.
Next, was a comprehensive presentation on the Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings program from Ashley Bieniek-Tabasco and Augusta Williams. The discussion started with emerging themes and priorities, such as the inclusion of indoor and outdoor industries. Priorities include acclimatization of new and returning workers; COVID-19 and face coverings; identifying signs and symptoms; and practical solutions for employers’. The communications campaign will provide new materials and information on social media. Importantly, there was also a discussion on OSHA’s intent to engage a NACOSH workgroup which OSHA will direct with questions to consider on topics such as prevention, monitoring, heat emergencies, worker training and engagement, and best practices versus existing practices as well as gaps and challenges.
Finally, there was an extensive presentation from Pam Barkley and Lisa Long on OSHA’s Safety and Health Programs, which is an actionable safety program for small and medium size employers. The Recommended Practices present a step-by-step approach to implementing a safety and health program centered around seven core elements that make up a successful program. The idea is to begin with a basic program, described as “bite size chunks”, and simple goals to make it more accessible for small and medium sized employers. The “organizing schemes” include: Management Leadership; Worker Participation; Hazard Identification and Assessment; Hazard Prevention and Control; Education and Training Program; Evaluation and Improvement; Communication and Coordination for Host Employers, Contractors, and Staffing Agencies. The Program also emphasizes a risk-based safety approach since this fully considers the human factors involved in the hazard versus risk analysis.
If your business needs help developing and implementing a Safety and Health Program which contemplates OSHA’s Recommended Practices, the Law Office of Adele L. Abrams, P.C., is available to guide you through this. Feel free to contact us at (301) 595-3520.