The Fall Meeting is ISEA’s largest national meeting. It’s a time for product groups and committees to do the essential work of the association - developing standards, formulating legislative and regulatory positions and planning for the future. It’s also a time for member company representatives to network with peers in the industry, as well as regulators and other government officials and industry allies.
ISEA members heard the following presentations at the December 5 general session:
Don Tolbert, Technical Director for Construction, Commercial Professional Services at Liberty Mutual. Tolbert provided an insurance company perspective on construction safety and health, and the role of PPE in protecting workers. He began by referring to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, an annual publication identifying the leading causes of serious non-fatal workplace injuries. Five categories have topped the list every year: overexertion, fall on same level, bodily reaction (e.g. injuries from bending, climbing, reaching, etc.), fall to lower level and struck by object. Digging deeper into the data, he noted that more than half the incidents in non residential construction occur at height, with another walking through the jobsite. This points to the need for constant protection, even when not actually performing work.
He then discussed how successful employers reduce safety and health risks using a systems approach that involves identifying and analyzing processes. When an incident occurs, it means a process has failed, he noted. An important part of this analysis is recognizing risk, the combination of probability (exposure opportunity and likelihood of occurrence) and severity of damage done in a harmful event. He suggested that employers use a systems approach to the hierarchy of controls. The traditional view is that use of PPE is management’s admission that they can’t manage the problem, he said, but a more effective approach is to optimize all layers of controls, including PPE. The best safety programs are partnerships, which include safety professionals managing the process and suppliers who provide innovative products that workers will want to wear and use. No group has more to contribute to the partnership than safety equipment providers, Tolbert said.
View Mr. Tolbert’s presentation.
Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. The agency’s key policy official gave an update on OSHA’s current activities, including regulations, emphasis programs and enforcement efforts. “OSHA is there to protect workers,” Barab said, especially vulnerable workers who have no other support system or advocate. He noted that reducing workplace injuries and illness, which cost the economy a billion dollars a week, not only protects workers, but also benefits their families and the society as a whole.
Barab reported on the status of current regulations of interest to ISEA, including its silica rule and the pending final rule on walking working surfaces and fall protection. He noted that opponents of OSHA regulations typically make inflated claims of the cost impact of regulations, and even OSHA often overestimates the cost. Regulations and standards usually end up costing less than projected, he said, because industry develops innovative ways to comply. Other OSHA initiatives are enforcement of rules targeting the most dangerous workplaces, focusing attention on temporary and contingent workers, and compliance assistance programs aimed at vulnerable worker populations. He praised the efforts of ISEA members in providing safety and health solutions, and the association for its ongoing partnership with OSHA.
Frank Hearl, Chief of Staff of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Hearl reviewed NIOSH programs and priorities, including targeted programs such as medical monitoring and compensation for 9-11 responders and atomic workers, safety and health in hydraulic fracturing and green jobs, and the Total Worker Health Initiative.
Turning to issues of particular interest to ISEA companies, Hearl reviewed the status of the NIOSH respirator certification programs, and active rulemakings on certification fees and inward leakage testing. He described the agency’s ongoing research into PPE conformity assessment, head protection to prevent injury in construction falls, and acceptance of NIOSH approved respirators for use in healthcare. ISEA is an active partner with NIOSH in all these programs, he noted.
View Mr. Hearl’s presentation.
The speaker at the Fall Meeting luncheon on December 5 was Jonathan Karl, chief White House correspondent for ABC News. He took the ISEA audience on a lively and informative tour of the dysfunctional capital, where Congress has only passed 56 bills this year and the President’s support is waning. Congress seems unable to pass anything substantive, he said, noting that most of the bills it passed concerned such issues as naming buildings and bridges, establishing the dimensions of a commemorative coin and ensuring the national helium supply.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama is losing support as people are questioning whether he can be trusted to lead. He used the healthcare rollout as an example of Administration mishandling of its own signature program, while the President made public promises that even his own advisors knew they would be unable to keep. Karl detailed the failure of budget talks as an example of the current disfunction, noting that the interest on the national debt exceeds the combined budgets of several Cabinet departments, yet the government has not had a functional budget in years.
He closed on an upbeat assessment of America, though. Even when its application is badly flawed, the American system of government is not broken, and we are still the envy of the world.
Also at the general session, ISEA members heard presentations on the 2014 Strategic Plan and budget, and summaries of the product group and committee activity on standards and technology programs and government relations priorities and activities.