Statement on Committee Composition by Committee Member James A. Oppold
As a member of the Committee to Assess Training Needs for Occupational Safety and Health Personnel in the United States I wish to record my concern about the composition of the 12-member committee and how that influenced the outcome of the report. This statement should be taken as a point of contention and not as a minority objection as I generally support the major conclusions and recommendations. Nevertheless, the summary minutes of the first meeting in March 1999 will show that I voiced concern about insufficient representation of occupational nursing and professional safety on the committee. After some discussion, resolution of this matter was delayed until the end of the first 2-day meeting. After 2 information-packed days I reluctantly agreed that it would be inappropriate to add anyone else to the committee at that time. However, at the November 1999 meeting I again raised the issue that the composition of the committee was far too heavily weighted with occupational physicians. Of the 12 members five are physicians, two are industrial hygienists, one is an occupational health nurse, one is a safety professional, and the other three are non-safety and health professionals: a datastatistician, a psychologist, and a health policy person. For the committee to be more effective I believe it would have been advisable to include safety and health representatives from a business such as insurance, another from engineering, and someone representing the academic programs that teach and do research other than the NIOSH Education and Research Centers.
Another concern is that 50 percent (6) of the present membership of
the committee are or have been affiliated with schools of public health or medicine. Their strategies and ideas generally prevailed for a simple majority consensus. I cannot view these decisions as a mandate or even a consensus. For example, the subject of health care, not workers’ health care, was an unnecessary topic to be included in the report, but the majority of the committee felt otherwise.
Prevention of injuries, illnesses, and workplace fatalities is a very complex problem and discussion of these problems should have equally included representatives from other disciplines. The discussions would have benefited from ideas and strategies from disciplines such as engineering, business, law, risk analysis, and the sciences (including psychology) and industrial technology. The framers of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gave the responsibility for carrying out its directives to two different federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), which indicates that disciplines other than health or more specifically public health should be involved in the prevention of workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
As for assessing the professional manpower needs the Committee generally agreed that this could not be accomplished within our limited time and research capabilities. Finally, as previously indicated the report could have been better with input from a more balanced committee.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the Committee to Assess Training Needs for Occupational Safety and Health Personnel in the United States and trust that my efforts to emphasize injury/fatality prevention brought meaning to the discussions. It is my desire, as it has been for 40 years, to make the place of employment safe and healthy.