Safety Leader

How OSHA Gathers Information: Safety and health advisory committees provide input

Getty Images / z_wei
Getty Images / z_wei
Published On
May 14, 2021

OSHA is responsible for creating and enforcing regulations that keep the American workforce safe. However, the agency cannot effectively do so without the input of employers, employees and other industry stakeholders. For this reason, OSHA established the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) and the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH). Both committees hold public meetings.

NACOSH

NACOSH was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to provide information to the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The committee’s 12 members—chosen on the basis of knowledge and experience in their respective fields—serve two-year terms, meeting two to four times a year. Two members each represent management, labor, occupational health professions and occupational safety professions. Four members represent the public. While the two health representatives and two of the public members are selected by the HHS secretary, all members are actually appointed by the secretary of labor. In March 2021, NACOSH issued a request in the Federal Register for new member nominees to be submitted by May 10.

The committee’s official role is to advise, consult and make recommendations to DOL and HHS through OSHA. NACOSH may evaluate topics such as leadership on worker safety and health; effective enforcement of OSHA standards; expanded compliance assistance; guidance and research, including research needs and priorities; expanded partnerships and voluntary programs; regulatory matters; and other activities to help reduce work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses.

The federal government may also consult with and seek advice or recommendations from NACOSH on emerging issues pertaining to occupational safety and health. The designated federal officer (DFO) of NACOSH is the deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance. The DFO is responsible for calling and attending all NACOSH, subcommittee and work group meetings; preparing and approving agendas; chairing meetings when the official to whom NACOSH reports directs; assembling and maintaining records and documents; and carrying out provisions of the Freedom of lnformation Act (5 U.S.C. 552) with respect to NACOSH reports, records and other papers.

OSHA or the NACOSH chair can also create subcommittees and work groups to provide recommendations to the full NACOSH committee. Under no circumstances may any subcommittee or work group report directly to DOL, HHS or OSHA.

ACCSH

An advisory body like NACOSH, the ACCSH provides advice and consultation on occupational safety and health standards and policy impacting the construction industry. The 15 members of ACCSH are appointed by the assistant secretary of labor and report directly to the deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. Five members represent employers, five represent employees, two represent state safety and health agencies, two represent the public, and one member is designated by the HHS secretary (usually from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health). The ACCSH meets two to six times per year for one- or two-day meetings.

The ACCSH also has several working groups, including education, training and outreach and the emerging and current issues work groups. Nonmember industry stakeholders are often invited to participate. 

In December 2020, the ACCSH issued a request in the Federal Register for potential new member nominees to be submitted in January. It is not clear who might be on that list, when new appointments might be made or when the committee might meet again. However, existing terms for current members expire in late May. 

If you would like more information, OSHA transcribes and prepares detailed minutes for all ACCSH and NACOSH committee and subcommittee meetings and prepares detailed minutes for all work group meetings. Transcripts, meeting minutes, work products and other materials presented at ACCSH and NACOSH committee, subcommittee and work group meetings are in a public docket available at www.regulations.gov.  

About the Author

Tom O'Connor

Safety Columnist

Tom O'Connor is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Reach him at toconnor@intecweb.com.

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