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    Subject Term: "Occupational health and safety programs"

    4 publications with a total of 13 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: David C. Trimble
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    5 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve DOE's ability to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of policies that call for all organizations, including contractors, to embrace a strong safety culture and create a work environment that encourages a questioning attitude by all employees, the Secretary of Energy should develop and implement an independent evaluation process for routinely and accurately measuring contractor employees' willingness to raise safety and other concerns without fear of retaliation. This process should ensure that an independent third party develops, conducts, and consistently applies the evaluation methodology--which should include safeguards that protect anonymity. The process should also enable DOE to oversee and ensure that appropriate corrective actions are taken in response to evaluation results.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation. DOE has developed a plan to analyze tools utilized by site contractors to determine the viability of using the data to monitor the influence of work environment on employees' willingness to raise safety concerns. DOE is working to finalize the plan and submit it for approval. We will continue to monitor DOE's efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the organizational placement and practices of DOE- and contractor- provided Employee Concerns Programs (ECP) do not inhibit contractor employees from raising safety and other concerns, the Secretary of Energy should revise DOE's ECP order and guidance to (1) require that the organizational placement and practices of contractor ECP's do not compromise or impair their independence, (2) clarify the circumstances under which DOE's ECP is permitted to transfer and refer concerns to contractors, and notify or require approval of the contractor employee raising the concern, and (3) provide criteria for overseeing and evaluating the effectiveness and independence of contractor-provided ECPs.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation. DOE is working to resolve issues with the order and, once resolved, will submit the revised order for approval and issuance. As of May 2018, the revised order had not been issued.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Congress has the information it needs as it considers whether or not to make permanent the enhanced whistleblower pilot program and that DOE has assurance that contractor employees have an effective mechanism to seek remedy for unlawful retaliation, the Secretary of Energy should fully evaluate the extent to which the pilot program has been implemented and whether its provisions will mitigate challenges associated with DOE's 708 program. This evaluation should include, at a minimum, an assessment of (1) contractors that have adopted the pilot program and the date they did so; (2) contractors that have not adopted the pilot program and an explanation of why not; (3) cases filed under the pilot program, if any; and (4) the pilot program's potential for mitigating challenges associated with the 708 program.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE concurred in principle with the recommendation. In response to this recommendation, the Office of Hearings and Appeals conducted a review of the Part 708 program that, according to DOE, evaluated each of the areas of concern and compared current part 708 regulations with the pilot program. We have requested a copy of the report and will update the status of this recommendation after we review the resulting report.
    Recommendation: To help improve DOE's ability to take enforcement action against unlawful retaliation when appropriate and take action against contractors that create a chilled work environment, the Secretary of Energy should direct DOE's Office of Enforcement to routinely collect information from the Department of Labor and other sources regarding substantiated cases of retaliation and take appropriate enforcement action.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to DOE, the Office of Enforcement has revised its internal implementing procedure to require that a review of DOE Office of Hearings and Appeals whistleblower cases, Department of Labor complaints submitted under the Energy Reorganization Act, and an online legal research service (for court decisions) be conducted each quarter to identify cases wherein a DOE contractor may have retaliated against an employee for reporting a safety concern and evaluate the information for potential enforcement action. We have requested a copy of the updated procedure and will update the status of this recommendation after we review it.
    Recommendation: To help improve DOE's ability to take enforcement action against unlawful retaliation when appropriate and take action against contractors that create a chilled work environment, the Secretary of Energy should revise DOE's Integrated Safety Management policy and guidance to clarify what constitutes evidence of a chilled work environment and define the appropriate steps DOE should take to hold contractors accountable for creating a chilled work environment.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation. In January 2018, DOE issued a revision to DOE Policy 450.4A. The revised policy states that organizations should foster a culture that allows employees to "feel free to raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation...and supporting a questioning attitude concerning safety by all employees." However, the policy does not define the appropriate steps DOE should take to hold contractors accountable for creating a chilled work environment. We will continue to monitor DOE's implementation of this recommendation.
    Director: Cindy Brown Barnes
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen DOL's efforts to ensure employers protect the safety and health of workers at meat and poultry plants, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, working together with the Commissioner of Labor Statistics as appropriate, to develop and implement a cost-effective method for gathering more complete data on musculoskeletal disorders.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL generally agreed with this recommendation and stated that its implementation would make a difference in working conditions in the meat and poultry industry. The agency also noted that resource constraints may make it difficult to implement. In June 2017, DOL reported that it is reviewing its options for moving forward and is exploring accurate coding and recordkeeping of MSDs and drivers for underreporting in poultry processing and elsewhere.
    Recommendation: To develop a better understanding of meat and poultry sanitation workers' injuries and illnesses, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health and the Commissioner of Labor Statistics to study how they could regularly gather data on injury and illness rates among sanitation workers in the meat and poultry industry.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOL generally agreed with this recommendation and stated that its implementation would make a difference in working conditions in the meat and poultry industry. The agency also noted that resource constraints may make it difficult to implement. In June 2017, OSHA reported that it is taking steps to address certain chemical hazards that can affect sanitation workers. The agency noted, for example, that it is developing fully validated sampling and analytical methods for common disinfectant chemicals used in meat and poultry processing operations including peracetic acid; and conducted direct reading instrument assessments, as well as air sampling in employee breathing zones.
    Recommendation: To develop a better understanding of meat and poultry sanitation workers' injuries and illnesses, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conduct a study of the injuries and illnesses these workers experience, including their causes and how they are reported. Given the challenges to gaining access to this population, NIOSH may want to coordinate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop ways to initiate this study.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS concurred with this recommendation and noted the previous difficulties NIOSH has had gaining access to these workplaces and the potential resource commitment involved in conducting such a study. We acknowledge this access challenge and noted in our report that OSHA has negotiated access for NIOSH in other industries, hence the rationale for recommending that NIOSH may want to coordinate with OSHA. The agency reported that it would reach out to stakeholders, such as worker unions, USDA and OSHA, to discuss the range of types of study that could be conducted to provide useful information. GAO will await the progress of this effort and close the recommendation when the agency initiates a study.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To support the collection of complete and accurate safety and health information on the condition of BIE school facilities nationally, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to ensure that all BIE schools are annually inspected for safety and health, as required by its policy, and that inspection information is complete and accurate. This could include: (1) Analyzing the key challenges to ensuring that all BIE schools are inspected, as well as implementing a plan to mitigate those challenges. (2) In the interim, prioritizing inspections at schools where facility conditions may pose a greater risk to students--such as schools with dormitories or those that have not been recently inspected.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In September 2016, Indian Affairs reported that it had completed annual safety inspections at all BIE school locations for the first time in at least 15 years. In late August 2017, officials reported that Indian Affairs was on course to complete all inspections in 2017 but did not provide documentation on its progress. Further, Indian Affairs stated that it understands the need to ensure that completing school inspections does not detract from inspection quality. However, as of August 2017 we had not received documentation that the agency had taken steps to ensure that its safety personnel collect inspection information that is complete and accurate. We believe the steps Indian Affairs has taken to prioritize the completion of safety inspections at all BIE schools are important ones. However, we believe it is also important that the agency take specific steps to ensure that the inspection information it collects is complete and accurate. Without complete and accurate information, BIE schools may not have the information they need on potential safety hazards, which may endanger students and staff. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure that all BIE schools are positioned to address safety and health problems with their facilities and provide student environments that are free from hazards, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a plan to build schools' capacity to promptly address safety and health problems with facilities. Such a plan could prioritize assistance to schools to improve the expertise of facility staff to maintain and repair school buildings.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. As of late August 2017, Indian Affairs had not provided us any documentation that it had taken steps to implement our recommendation. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Debra A. Draper
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To eliminate the fragmentation and duplication in the storage of unclassified OEHS data, the Secretary of Defense should determine which IT system--DOEHRS or MESL--should be used to store specific types of unclassified OEHS data, clarify the department's policy accordingly, and require all other departmental and military-service-specific policies to be likewise amended and implemented to ensure consistency.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) concurred with our recommendation. In November 2016, officials told us that draft versions of the revised DoDI 6490.03, Deployment Health, and the new Defense Health Agency Procedural Instruction (DHA PI) 6490.03, Deployment Health, are still under review with DOD components. These revised and updated documents will address the recommendation on OEHS data storage. Additionally, DoDI 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH), and Military Service and Combatant Command policy and guidance documents are still being revised to be consistent with DoDI 6490.03 and DHA PI 6490.03 after they are published. These revisions will ensure the consistency among policies. In February 2018, DOD informed GAO that it determined that all OEHS data will now be stored in DOEHRS because the MESL system was terminated following the transfer of all OEHS data from MESL to DOEHRS in September 2017, and that this requirement will be included in its policy update on OEHS data storage. In the interim, DOD has informed the military services and combatant commands of the forthcoming policy changes. As of February 2018, DOD expected that these policies would be amended by December 2018.
    Recommendation: To ensure the reliability of OEHS data, the Secretary of Defense should establish clear policies and procedures for performing quality assurance reviews of the OEHS data collected during deployment, to include verifying the completeness and the reasonableness of these data, and require that all other related military-service-specific policies be amended and implemented to ensure consistency.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. In August 2016, officials told us that draft versions of the revised DoDI 6490.03, Deployment Health, and the new Defense Health Agency Procedural Instruction (DHA PI) 6490.03, Deployment Health, are in review among the DOD Components. Further, DoDI 6055.05, Occupational and Environmental Health (OEH) and Military Service and Combatant Command policy and guidance documents will be revised to be consistent with DoDI 6490.03 and DHA PI 6490.03 after they are published. In addition, DOD is exploring improvement to the data quality assurance functionality within the Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System Industrial Hygiene (DOEHRS-IH). A new DOEHRS-IH version (2.0.18.1) was released on August 19, 2016 that contained several system enhancements and defect corrections to improve overall data quality in the system. The revised policies and the new DOEHRS-IH functionality will appropriately address the recommendation on quality assurance of OEHS data. In February 2018, DOD told us that DODI 6490.03 and DHA-PI 6490.03 are still in the process of being revised, and they expected this process to be complete by December 2018. In addition, it expects that Service and Component policies will be subsequently revised to address performing quality assurance reviews of OEHS data, and expects this to be complete by the second quarter of fiscal year 2019.
    Recommendation: To ensure that potential occupational and environmental health risks are mitigated for servicemembers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense should require CENTCOM to revise its policy to ensure that base commanders' decisions on whether to implement risk mitigation recommendations identified in OEHSAs are adequately documented and consistently monitored by the appropriate command.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. In August 2016, officials told us that the current DoDI 6055.01, DoD Safety and Occupational Health Program, requires DoD components to establish procedures that document, archive, and reevaluate risk management decisions on a recurring basis. Draft versions of the revised DoDI 6490.03, Deployment Health, and the new Defense Health Agency Procedural Instruction (DHA PI) 6490.03, Deployment Health, include language that is consistent with DoDI 6055.01. Additionally, U.S. Central Command Regulation 40-2 (CCR 40-2), which was updated as of March 8, 2016, references the requirement to establish procedures to assure risk management decisions are documented, archived, and reevaluated on a recurring basis. DOD is also exploring a risk management decision and monitoring functionality in DOEHRS-IH. It has identified and approved the necessary system change requests required to improve risk management decisions and monitoring functionality. These functionalities are primarily focused around the Occupational & Environmental Health Site Assessment (OEHSA) and associated exposure pathways, sampling plans, and assessments. Subject to the availability of FY 2017 funding, DOD will implement the system change requests, and achieve the required enhancements to DOEHRS-IH. These policies once published and the new DOEHRS-IH functionality will appropriately address the recommendation on documenting and monitoring risk management decisions. In February 2018, DOD told us that DODI 6490.03 and DHA-PI 6490.03 are still in the process of being revised, and they expected this process to be complete by December 2018.