Back to the Drawing Board for OSHA Ergo Initiatives
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) hosted three forums across the country this month to gather public comment on workplace ergonomics. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao will review the information presented at these forums prior to developing OSHA’s new stance on the issue, expected to be released this September.

After President Bush signed a Congressional joint resolution to disapprove of OSHA’s ergonomics standard, earlier this year, Chao promised to research all sides of the issue before proceeding with additional workplace safety initiatives.

In testimony before Congress, this spring, Chao listed six principles that the Department of Labor will use to create a new ergonomics approach:

Prevention — The approach should place greater emphasis on preventing injuries before they occur.

Sound science — The approach should be based on the best available science and research.

Incentive-driven — The approach should focus on cooperation between OSHA and employers.

Flexibility — The approach should take account of the varying capabilities and characteristics of different businesses.

Feasibility — Future actions must recognize the costs of compliance to small businesses.

Clarity — Any approach must include short, simple and common-sense instructions.

Congressional Pesticide Update
The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill that would require extensive planning and public notification when schools use U.S. Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA) registered pesticides.

Use of antibacterial products is not included in the provision, but it does require schools to implement a pest-management policy considering: sanitation, structural repair, mechanical, biological, cultural and pesticide strategies that minimize health and environmental risks, as developed by the state and approved by the EPA.

In mid-June, the Senate unanimously passed the School Environment Protection Act of 2001 as part of the larger Elementary and Secondary Education Authorization Bill (ESEA).

Currently, 31 states have taken some level of action in protecting children from pesticide use in, around or near their schools. For instance, the state of New York recently issued more than $530,000 in grants to local governments, schools and not-for-profit organizations to fund 15 projects promoting alternatives to pesticide use in public buildings and schools.

In other congressional news, bills are pending in both the House and Senate to allow states to register Canadian pesticides for distribution and use.

The bills would allow states to register any pesticides, if they “already are registered in Canada; are identical or have substantially similar composition to that of a comparable registered domestic pesticide; and are registered in Canada by the registrant of the comparable domestic pesticide or by an affiliated entity of the registrant.”

Bills S532 and HR1084 are under review in each house’s respective agricultural committees.

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Mandated Green Cleaning

Green Seal recently received a grant from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania to develop a “green maintenance” manual. While public and private sectors have focused on building more environmentally safe and efficient facilities, during the last decade, experts have found that improper maintenance within these buildings could negate environmental benefits.

Pennsylvania is the first state to commission green cleaning standards, though other states already have shown an interest in adopting the standards, once complete. The manual will create options for purchasing environmentally friendly products, rather than dictating specific brands. It also will determine the most effective frequencies for cleaning and maintenance tasks, as well as the best times of day to perform services to have the least affect on building occupants.

“Day-to-day operations and maintenance can have a big impact on IAQ and VOC levels,” says Mike Petruzzi, of Green Seal, who is coordinating the manual. “Some manuals dealing with green buildings currently discuss what not to do or use in a building. We plan to take it a step further and give cleaning workers directions as to what they can do and what products they can use.”

If contractors would like to contribute information to the project, or would like to receive a draft of the manual when it is ready to review, contact Petruzzi .

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania will test the green standards in select government buildings for a few months and finish a second revision before making the green cleaning a state-wide mandate.

This information is intended as a summary of legal information and should in no way be construed as legal advice. Contact your attorney before proceeding with any legal action.