The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) predicts safe patient handling, mold abatement and protecting against hazardous materials will be the top three safety issues for states in 2014.
“With the federal government tied up in other matters … and a broken rulemaking process, it takes months, if not years, for legislation and regulations to be enacted at the federal level,” said Aaron K. Trippler, AIHA’s government affairs director. “That’s why it’s important to devote resources to monitor state legislation and engage in rulemaking efforts of interest to the occupational safety and health profession at the state level. And nowadays, it appears that legislation passed at the state level eventually comes up at the federal level.”
Safe Patient Handling
Approximately 12 states have enacted some form of legislation or regulation addressing safe patient handling, according to Trippler. The issue has also seen movement on the federal level, with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) launch of an online resource aimed at protecting hospital workers from the dangers of the job. This resource focuses particularly on safe-patient-handling practices and safety and health management systems.
States are continuing to consider mold abatement in built environments to determine whether it should be regulated and whether those involved in this work should be licensed, Trippler said. Some states are attempting to set exposure limits for remediation workers, while others are trying to set abatement and remediation standards. “One of the major problems in enacting this type of legislation is deciding who is qualified for licensing and who is not,” he said.
More states are discussing how to deal with hazardous materials, addressing everything from asbestos to chemical hazards. “This may be due, in part, to the fact that the federal government continues to face the consequences of chemical hazards, such as those that caused the devastating fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas, in 2013,” Trippler said.
OSHA recently appealed to employers to voluntarily adopt new chemical exposure limits and to use agency resources to better protect workers from hazardous chemicals.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels pointed out that tens of thousands of workers become ill or die from occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals every year. “There is no question that many of OSHA’s chemical standards are not adequately protective,” he said. “The complexity of OSHA’s current rulemaking process makes it extremely difficult for us to update our chemical safety standards and issue new standards in a reasonable period of time. Simply complying with OSHA’s antiquated permissible exposure limits [PELs] will not guarantee that workers will be safe.”
The agency has created two new Web resources: a toolkit designed to help employers and workers identify safer chemical substitutes, and a compilation of annotated PELs to better protect workers.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
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