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Data for Graph of Fatality Rates, by Industry, 1973-1982
(Rates per 100,000 workers).
Mr. FRANK. We will now hear from our final panel, Margaret Seminario, who is associate director of the department of occupational safety and health and social security of the American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organization; and Mr. Eric Frumin, who is chairman of the Labor Research Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and has other affiliations as well.
Thank you. Whoever is going to begin, Ms. Seminario. STATEMENT OF MARGARET SEMINARIO, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR,
DEPARTMENT OF OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR/CONGRESS OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATION Ms. SEMINARIO. Yes, my name is Peg Seminario, representing the AFL-CIO. I have submitted testimony which basically addresses three issues in the area of occupational health statistics and recordkeeping: The issue of the use of BLS data to exempt employers from inspections; some changes in OSHA's management information system regarding inspection activity reporting; and the third area is on the issue of access to medical records.
I would like at this time just to summarize
Mr. FRANK. We will put that in the record without objection and you can proceed.
Ms. SEMINARIO. Fine, and really focus my attention on the issue of health data, since that is the issue that
Mr. FRANK. Let me say, with regard to the regulations, we will be getting back to that at another time. We did want to focus on the illness thing now.
Ms. SEMINARIO. Fine.
Mr. FRANK. There is an issue there and we will be writing and following that one up.
Ms. SEMINARIO. OK. On the issue of health data, first of all, just sitting here as an observer this morning, I wish to comment that everybody seems to be trying to escape responsibility by dealing with the issue of occupational health data in broad generalities. I don't think it is possible to effectively deal with the issue in broad generalities and you have to look at specific aspects of the problem and assign responsibility.
First, I would like to say that I respectfully disagree that the workplace data can't be used in the area of occupational health data. That is, indeed, where all our data comes from.
When you look at all the studies that have found cause and effect, whether it is on asbestos, whether it is on benzene, the effects of cotton dust, those have all been discovered by looking at workplace exposures. That is because those people are the most heavily exposed and the effects are shown first. They are also discrete populations and so that is where we get all our basic epidemiologic data from.
We usually don't get it from the general population, so I would disagree that the workplace is not the source of data because it historically has been the place where this data comes from and where we see the cause and effect.
One of the problems in making that determination of cause and effect has been the problem of recordkeeping, that historically records on exposure and on the medical effects haven't been kept, and medical surveillance programs haven't been in effect so when a researcher goes back in and tries to define the population, define the agent of exposure, and do an assessment as to whether excessive disease has occurred, the records haven't been available.
That has been one of the major problems, whether it is NIOSH doing a study, whether it is the NCI doing a cancer epidemiologic study or whether it is an academician. The records haven't been there.
Well, one thing that OSHA can do, and has been doing for the last few years, is require through regulation that records be maintained. In 1978, OSHA issued a rule that immediately required all employers to maintain basic records of exposure in medical records. That rule was finalized after a public hearing in 1980 and was expanded to allow access of workers and their representative to those records. In our view, this is one of the most important regulations that OSHA has ever issued.
It is not substance specific. It covers a broad range of toxic substances. It covers over 60,000 substances, and any worker exposed to any one of these substances, for that worker, the records that are made by the employer, exposure records and medical records have to be kept. That is a good idea because we need that data base to do these studies.
The regulation has not required that employers generate any records. It doesn't say employers have to do medical tests; it doesn't say employers have to do monitoring, but it says, if employers do these kinds of investigations, they have to keep the data base and keep the records. As I said, we think it is a very good rule.
We are very concerned because in 1982, OSHA proposed to dramatically weaken that rule in a number of very important areas and to cut back by 90 percent the number of toxic substances covered. They proposed to limit the retention periods and so historical records of exposure wouldn't be there.
The changes haven't been finalized. OSHA is still evaluating those changes, but we are concerned because during this time of review, the agency had been challenged by the chemical industry on the original 1980 rule. That 1980 rule was upheld in full by a district court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
As you may be aware, the fifth circuit has historically been the toughest court on OSHA, put just a month ago, that rule was upheld in full by the fifth circuit. But at the time when the court decision came down, the official response from OSHA was, “We are still looking at this revision of this rule."
Again, we are concerned that the changes that OSHA is contemplating in its proposal would basically allow the destruction of the data base that is necessary to do these studies. So OSHA does have a responsibility in this area and it is one that they have met in the past, but it is one that they are considering weakening.
Another area related to OSHA, and what they could be doing in this area to assist, both with regard to data collection and also reporting, is in the area of specific occupational health standards. We do have a standard on asbestos; we do have a specific standard on arsenic; we now have one on ethylene oxide. All of those standards have provisions to conduct medical exams. It is in the standard. Generally employers have to do it on an annual basis.
The purpose of those exams is to look for occupationally related diseases. There is no requirement in any of those standards to record specifically those diseases which are found on the log of illness or injuries or to report them anywhere.
Now, you might not be able to say that a specific cancer in a worker was directly caused by asbestos. It is always very hard, but if you have an asbestos-exposed worker and that person develops cancer, there should be a requirement to report that cancer and indicate that the person was exposed to asbestos. That is not required under any OSHA standards.
Again, they require the medical tests, but they don't require the reporting, and so, in our view, there are regulations in place now regulations that could be used and should be being used to assist us in this effort, but as we heard this morning, everybody seems to be passing the buck to somebody else, saying, “We can't deal with the whole problem; it is not our responsibility." But if in each of these areas, whether it is OSHA, NIOSH, or BLS, dealt with their part of the problem and did it in some coordinated fashion, we may be able to make some progress. But what we are hearing from the Government today is that none of them want to take any responsibility and they don't seem to think that there are any immediate solutions that could be implemented to try to deal with this problem in an incremental fashion.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Seminario follows:
TESTIMONY OF MARGARET SDINARIO, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON MANPOWER AND HOUSING
June 20, 1984
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify and present the
the AFL CIO
occupational safety and health statistics and
recordkeeping. Though data collection and recordkeeping do not receive much
Meaningful injury and illness statistics are needed to define the
our occupational safety and health problems, and to provide information on
The problems related to data collection, analysis and utilization are
many and varied.
Indeed, after 14 years of a national OSHA program,
no good statistics
on occupational disease problems, little
progress is being made to document exposures, and data that is available is
often misrepresented and misapplied.
I would like to direct my testimony to three areas related to record
keeping and statistics:
1) OSHA's use of BLS data and employer's Logs of
Occupational Injury and Illness to exempt manufacturing employers from general schedule safety inspections; 2) changes in OSHA inspection activity reporting, and 3) OSHA's plans to revise the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records rule.
In Fiscal Year 1982 OSHA instituted an inspection "targeting" program
that exempted manufacturing employers with better than average safety
records from general schedule safety inspections. Based on results from the
BLS Annual Survey of Injuries and Illnesses,
all employers which fall in
manufacturing industry sectors with a lost work day injury rate below the
private sector average are exempt from general schedule safety inspections.
For those firms not exempt by this industry level scheme,
exemption may still be achieved if review of the firm's log of Injuries and
lost work day injury rate below the manufacturing
By design the program exempts 75 percent of all manufacturing
firms from OSHA general schedule safety inspections.
More than two years of experience shows the "targeting" program to be a
waste of time and a waste of money.
Over 50 percent of OSHA general
schedule safety inspections in the manufacturing sector result in only a
review of employers records; work place hazards are never evaluated. Though
this targeting scheme was supposed to focus OSHA inspection resources on the
most hazardous firms in the most hazardous industries, inspections are
compared to the Carter Administration's
targeting program, the Reagan program is finding fewer hazards.
In FY 1980,
OSHIA'S targeting program for general schedule safety inspections in the
manufacturing sector produced 11,773 serious, willful and repeat violations
in 9,180 routine safety inspections in FY 1982 and 9,534 such
repeat violations per inspection fell by 45 - 50%. There is no evidence to