Foulke Resigns, Thomas M. Stohler Named Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA

November 18, 2008

Thomas M. Stohler has been named Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA effective Nov. 10, 2008. Stohler had been Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) since May 2008. Working with the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA and the senior leadership of the Department of Labor, he developed and implemented the administration’s policy goals and objectives. He also oversaw the agency’s regulatory, compliance assistance, OSHA state plan oversight, emergency response, training, administrative, and IT functions. OSHA has approximately 2,115 employees and a budget of $486 million in FY 2008.

Prior to working for OSHA, Stohler was a Senior Legislative Officer for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the DOL. In this capacity, he served as the principle House and Senate liaison for OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). He has also worked in the student lending industry, and spent 10 years working for high-tech and construction trade associations. Stohler has also worked for several members of Congress, including Rep. John Boehner where he served as the Legislative Director.

Stohler is a graduate of Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy and Economics.

Safety Tip: Inspect Heating Appliances and Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors

As the weather cools, this is the right time of year to heed a carbon monoxide health warning and take steps to conduct an annual inspection for combustion appliances, such as ovens and propane heaters, and make sure that you have installed life-saving carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.

On average each year, 450 people nationally die from accidental CO poisoning, and many more experience flu-like symptoms. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that blocks the use of oxygen in the body. Young children and individuals with heart disease are those most likely to be affected by CO poisoning.

“Carbon monoxide is truly a silent killer,” said California’s Air Resources Board (ARB) Chairman Mary Nichols. “As winter weather beckons us to warm our homes, there is little thought that heating appliances can be potentially hazardous. Simple steps can be taken to protect yourself and your family from tragedy.”

More than half of CO poisoning deaths are from malfunctioning or improperly vented combustion appliances. The ARB recommends:

  • Proper use and maintenance of any appliances that produce a flame, such as gas furnaces and gas and propane space heaters, can prevent exposure to lethal levels of CO
  • Gas ovens should not be used for heating the home
  • Kerosene or propane space heaters, charcoal grills and barbecues, and unvented gas logs are dangerous and cannot be used legally indoors in California
  • Annual check-ups of all gas appliances by a qualified professional
  • Use of Underwriters Laboratory (UL)-approved CO detectors that sound an alarm when dangerous carbon monoxide levels are found; some also have warning signals or digital readouts to indicate lower levels of CO
  • Using caution when heating with propane appliances, older wall or floor gas furnaces, and fireplaces
  • Placing emergency generators outdoors away from windows and doors to prevent fumes from entering the home
  • Proper use and maintenance of appliances in recreational vehicles


If you are concerned about the safety of your gas furnace or oven, contact your local utility provider or utility certified heating contractor immediately and request a combustion appliance safety test that includes CO measurements. Some utility companies will inspect home equipment for little or no charge.

In addition, do not operate cars or other internal combustion engines in enclosed spaces or attached garages. One-third of CO poisoning deaths are the result of accidental exposure from vehicles running in closed garages.

ARB data show that outdoor CO levels rise throughout California between the months of November and March because of stagnant weather conditions. These levels have been measured in covered garages and at busy intersections. Rising levels of outdoor CO may generate health complaints in sensitive people.

South Carolina’s DHEC Encourages Smokers to Quit on Great American Smokeout

The Great American Smokeout offers tobacco users an opportunity to “quit for keeps” starting November 20, announced the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

“According to research done by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70% of adult smokers want to quit,” said Katy Wynne, tobacco cessation consultant in DHEC’s Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control. “DHEC encourages South Carolinians who smoke to take advantage of the services our agency offers to help them stop tobacco use on this day set aside for quitting by the American Cancer Society.

The South Carolina Tobacco Quitline is a free phone-based counseling service available to all state residents. Callers are assigned a personal Quit Coach, who offers support and helps them formulate a plan to make their quit attempt successful. The Quitline is available from 8 a.m. to midnight seven days a week by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Wynne also recommends the following tips for quitting tobacco use:

  • Set a quit date. Circle the day on your calendar, and create a plan that includes personal goals and rewards for reaching those milestones.
  • Throw out all the cigarette packs or tobacco products in your house and vehicle.
  • Talk to your doctor. Given your medical history and the number of years you’ve smoked, your doctor will be able to recommend a cessation medication.
  • Look for patterns. If you find that you always crave a cigarette during your mid-morning coffee break, try changing your pattern.
  • Tell friends and family you’re quitting. They can often be your biggest cheerleaders. Ask them to drop an occasional e-mail, postcard, or phone call to keep you motivated.
  • Look into joining a support group or call the South Carolina Tobacco Quitline. There are people just like you who are also interested in talking about their tobacco addiction.


DHS Adopts NFPA Standards for Hazmat/WMD Incidents

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted two additional NFPA standards for first responders: NFPA 472, Standard for Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents and NFPA 473, Standard for Competencies for EMS Personnel Responding to Hazardous Materials/Weapons of Mass Destruction Incidents.

“When called, firefighters respond. If the past is our guide to the future, we know firefighters will be among the first called to respond to these challenging emergencies,” said Greg Cade, U.S. Fire Administrator. “I applaud the efforts of the NFPA and DHS to identify the basic competencies required of firefighters, and more importantly the support this will provide the fire service leadership throughout the nation preparing their communities and first responders for responding to a hazardous materials event or potential weapons of mass destruction incidents.”

These two standards set minimum requirements for personnel responding to incidents involving hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction. NFPA 472 sets minimum competency levels for personnel responding to such incidents, and NFPA 473 covers the requirements for basic life support and advanced life support personnel in the pre-hospital setting.

“As the dedicated men and women of the fire service and other emergency responders are faced with new challenges in dangerous situations, often involving unexpected hazards, it is vital that they are well prepared to deal with them,” said James M. Shannon, NFPA’s president. “DHS’s recent adoptions support responders and improve their safety by establishing important guidelines.”

MIOSHA Issues Guidance on Medical Services and First Aid for General Industry and Construction

In October 2008, Michigan OSHA (MIOSHA) adopted Agency Instruction, MIOSHA STD-08-3 to provide clarifications to ensure uniform enforcement and interpretation of medical services and first aid requirements for general industry and construction safety. Following is a summary of the major changes and clarifications included in this instruction.

The “near proximity” requirements for General Industry have changed the previous “within 10 minutes travel time” stipulation to now be:

  • Three-to-four minute response time is required in areas where serious accidents may occur. Examples of serious injuries would include fall, electric shock, amputation, or severe chemical exposure.
  • Maximum 15-minute response time is acceptable in other circumstances where life-threatening injury is unlikely. An office setting is an example of a low hazard workplace.


For all other General Industry Standards with first-aid requirements, employers with an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in “near proximity” are considered to have met first-aid equipment, supplies, and treatment requirements for that location. This does not apply to Construction.

First Aid in Construction

  • The General Rules require that a person with a valid first-aid certificate be present at the worksite to render first aid with CPR training not being a required element. MIOSHA recommends CPR training along with first-aid training.
  • “Readily accessible” first-aid supplies at a jobsite means available within three-to-four minutes.
  • A first-aid kit that contains items appropriate for the worksite will be considered in compliance with this rule.

The MIOSHA instruction includes five elements to consider when evaluating an employer’s effort to address first aid or medical treatment. A new consideration is the employer’s efforts to identify emergency medical services and availability for all times of the day when employees are working. Response times for treatment must be planned, taking into consideration normally anticipated delays such as auto or train traffic. Plans for response time must be reevaluated when conditions change.

Employers in compliance with prior criteria shall not be issued a citation for non-compliance with the new near proximity criteria until after Jan. 1, 2009.

The MIOSHA instruction includes appendices that provide a list and summary of other standards with first aid or medical service references. There is an appendix for General Industry Safety, Construction Safety, and Occupational Health rules.

New CDC Study Finds Community Physical Activity Programs Are Money Well Spent

Using a rigorous economic model developed to assess the cost-effectiveness of community-based physical activity interventions, the study found these interventions to be cost-effective; reducing new cases of many chronic diseases and improving quality of life.

Researchers found that community-based physical activity programs appeared to reduce new cases of disease by: 5–15 cases per 100,000 people for colon cancer; 15–58 cases per 100,000 for breast cancer; 59–207 cases per 100,000 for type 2 Diabetes, and 140–476 cases per 100,000 for heart disease.

Community-based physical activity interventions broadly fall under the following strategies:

  • Tailored behavior change to encourage people to set physical activity goals and monitor their individual progress.


“This study supports the value and effectiveness of the physical activity interventions that were studied,” said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC′s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “This study also shows the importance of the new physical activity guidelines put forth last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

CDC′s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity funds programs in 23 states designed to prevent obesity and promote healthy lifestyle habits such as physical activity.

November 20th is the Great American Smokeout

Fewer U.S. adults smoke, but cigarette smoking continues to impose substantial health and financial costs on society, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

 However, based on the current rate of decline, it is unlikely that the national health objective of reducing the prevalence of adult cigarette smoking to 12% or lower will be met by 2010.

Smoking causes at least 30% of all cancer deaths, including more than 80% of lung cancer deaths, and 80% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Smoking is responsible for early cardiovascular disease and death. As a result, about half of all long-term smokers, particularly those who began smoking as teens, die prematurely, many in middle age.

“The good news, we continue to see fewer people smoking,” said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director of CDC′s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “The bad news is we need more people to quit. Quitting smoking is the most important step smokers can take to improve their health and protect the health of nonsmoking family members. Smokers should be aware that there are treatments and services available to help them quit now more than ever before. Smokers can more than double their likelihood of successfully quitting by using medications and telephone counseling.”

Another MMWR study released this week by CDC assessed the U.S. health consequences and productivity losses attributable to smoking. National estimates of annual smoking deaths indicate that, during 2000–2004, cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke resulted in approximately 443,000 annual premature deaths, consistent with previous estimates. In addition, during 2001–2004, average annual smoking-attributable health care expenditures were approximately $96 billion, compared to $75 billion in 1998. Accounting for direct health care expenditures and productivity losses ($97 billion), the total economic burden of smoking is approximately $193 billion per year.

 The event encourages smokers to quit for at least one day in the hope that this might help them to stop using tobacco permanently. The Smokeout also draws attention to the many proven ways to encourage people to stop smoking. These include making it more affordable for people to use medical treatments; establishing smoke-free environments in homes, workplaces, and restaurants; increasing the price of cigarettes; and producing mass media campaigns to inform and help motivate tobacco users to quit.

 “If, starting in 2009, all states were to fully implement tobacco control programs at CDC-recommended levels of investment, an estimated five million fewer people in this country would smoke within five years, and hundreds of thousands of premature tobacco-related deaths would be prevented each year.”

New Survey Suggests Growing Awareness of COPD, Nation’s Fourth Leading Killer

Awareness of COPD  is growing, but few Americans have a thorough understanding of the disease, according to a new national survey. The new data show that 64% of survey respondents had heard of COPD, compared with 49% in a 2004 survey. Among those who reported hearing of COPD, only half recognized the disease as a leading cause of death, and just 44% understood it to be treatable.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health () analyzed results from the annual HealthStyles survey of American public health attitudes, knowledge, practices, and lifestyle habits, conducted each summer by Porter Novelli.

The fourth leading cause of death in the United States, COPD is a serious lung disease affecting an estimated 24 million Americans. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD and another 12 million may have COPD but remain undiagnosed despite recognizable symptoms. COPD typically affects people over 45, especially those who smoke or have smoked, and those with risk factors associated with genetics or environmental exposures. Symptoms include chronic cough, sometimes called “smoker’s cough,” shortness of breath, wheezing, not being able to take a deep breath, and excess sputum production.

“We are encouraged that people are becoming more aware of the term COPD,” said Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D., director, NHLBI. “But the survey also indicates that we as a public health community have much more work to do to promote greater understanding of the disease, its symptoms, and risk factors, so that we can improve rates of diagnosis and treatment.”

While 74% of survey respondents correctly identified shortness of breath as a symptom of COPD, only 5% recognized chronic cough as a symptom of the disease. Smoking is attributed to as many as 9 out of 10 COPD-related deaths, yet most survey respondents—66%—did not recognize smoking as a risk factor. This was especially true among the current smokers surveyed. Just 22% recognized that their smoking puts them at greater risk for COPD.

“This is perhaps the most distressing information that the survey has brought to light,” said James P. Kiley, Ph.D., director of the Division of Lung Diseases, NHLBI. “While we applaud the millions of Americans who have heeded the public health community’s call to quit smoking, it’s important that both current and former smokers know that they remain at risk for COPD.”

COPD can be diagnosed with a simple breathing test called spirometry. Those at risk for COPD as well as those experiencing symptoms should talk to their doctor about the test. Spirometry is not invasive and can be conducted in your doctor’s office. It involves breathing out as hard and fast as possible into a tube connected to a machine that measures lung function.

For those diagnosed with COPD, many treatments are available to reduce symptoms, improve breathing, and help patients get back to doing activities they used to do.

NHLBI plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases, as well as sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on COPD, women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. 

The NIH—The Nation’s Medical Research Agency—includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.

AIHA Survey Names Top Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety Issues

Every two years, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) conducts a public policy survey of its members to reveal issues most likely to present concerns for the industrial hygiene profession in the coming two years.

“This list of policy issues allows AIHA to focus our efforts on the priorities of our members,” said AIHA President Lindsay E. Booher. “Industrial hygienists and other occupational and environmental health and safety professionals are on the front line of worker safety and public health, and these regulatory and legislative issues have a key impact on the work that they perform.”

AIHA’s biennial survey has identified the following as the top public policy issues for 2009–2010:

  • Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) Updating
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)/Globally Harmonized System (GHS)
  • Nanotechnology
  • Professional Recognition/Title Protection
  • Laboratory Accreditation
  • OSHA—Specific Issues
    • Combustible Dust Standard
    • Ergonomics Standard
    • Cranes and Derricks Standard
    • Silica Standard
    • Indoor Air Quality
  • OSHA—General Issues
    • PELs—Updating
    • GHS for Classification/Labeling of Chemicals
    • Nanotechnology
    • Safety and Health Programs/Injury and Illness Prevention Programs
    • Risk Assessment
  • Federal/State Legislative Issues
    • PELs—Updating
    • Appropriations for OSHA, MSHA, NIOSH, EPA
    • Federal Contracting—Must comply with OSHA regulations to receive
    • GHS for Classification/Labeling of Chemicals
    • Expansion of OSHA coverage to all employees
  • EPA Issues
    • GHS for Classification/Labeling of Chemicals
    • Clean Air Act
    • Clean Water Act
  • National/International Standards
    • Nanotechnology
    • Establishing Guideline Values/Setting PELs
    • Laboratory Analysis/Certification
    • Environmental/OH&S Management Systems
  • Additional standards ranking very high in the survey:
    • Respiratory Protection
    • Industrial Ventilation Systems
    • Risk Management
    • Noise/Bioacoustics


In addition to public policy issues, AIHA members also ranked the following in overall importance to AIHA. The top association issues included:

  • Collaboration with other OEHS organizations
  • Professional Ethics
  • Standards (ANSI, ASTM, etc.)
  • GHS for Classification/Labeling of Chemicals

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