ASK ANN

In addition to this column, members are welcome to post their questions in the general forum area of the APWA website at www.apwa.net. There, other members have the opportunity to post their answers directly. We also retrieve those questions with broad appeal for "Ask Ann."

A fleet manager from the southwest asks, "What happened to all the talk about the ergonomics bill we were worried about last year? Is this something that died or do we need to be alert to new proposals?"

Some wise old sage once said, "The only two things certain in life are death and taxes." But even death seems to find rebirth in today's world. The issue you are talking about was, indeed, one that APWA watched very closely about a year and a half ago. Then things quieted down. On April 4, 2002, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao announced a comprehensive approach to ergonomics that consists of four prongs: Guidelines; Enforcement; Outreach and Assistance; and Research. In order for this comprehensive approach to be successful, Secretary Chao believes it is necessary and in the public interest to establish a National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics. The committee will advise John L. Henshaw, assistant secretary for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) on ergonomic guidelines, research, outreach and assistance. Specifically, Henshaw intends to seek advice from the committee in the following areas:

  • Information related to various industry or task-specific guidelines
  • Identification of gaps in the existing research related to applying ergonomic principles to the workplace
  • Current and projected research needs and efforts
  • Methods of providing outreach and assistance that will communicate the value of ergonomics to employers and employees
  • Ways to increase communication among stakeholders on the issue of ergonomics
If you are interested in following the efforts of this committee, contact Justin Crandol at 703-837-5411.

"What has happened to the new upgrades to the MicroPaver program? We've been waiting on them for many, many months. When will they be available?"

The answer is "Now." The CDs with the upgrades were recently received in the APWA office and have been sent out to member-users. If you have not received yours, please contact me at adaniels@apwa.net.

If you don't know about MicroPAVER, drop a note requesting information to thon@apwa.net.

"All of a sudden some of our residents are pressing the City Council to put out many of our city services for bid by private companies. What's going on? I thought everybody was happy with government providing these services again. I thought the privatization issue had been put to rest."

I recently read a quote that says, "A funny thing happened on the way to privatization's funeral—the corpse got up and said, 'Hey, I'm late for work.'" According to an article in the Wall Street Journal just after September 11, privatization had come to an end. The article forecast the death of privatization when it reported a few elected officials saying that the terrorist threat made privatization unthinkable and caused a greater surge in public opinion of and support for government.

Actually, privatization and outsourcing seem to have been little affected by the terrorist attacks. The latest Brookings survey of public opinion of the federal government shows the post-Sept. 11 surge in government popularity has evaporated. (The report can be found at http://www.brookings.edu/dybdocroot/comm/events/20020530.htm.) Public opinion of government workers and government competence has fallen back to pre-Sept. 11 levels, according to the report's authors, largely due to people's core belief that government employees are motivated more by job security, benefits, and money than by the desire to do the right thing.

While you and I would agree that this is not always true, and that many government workers are trying to do the right thing, even then the system often hampers their efforts.

Providing the best product and effective customer service will be the key to agencies maintaining their operations. You and your staff will hold the decision in your hands. Do it right.

"There seems to be a big push on about work zone safety. Why now?"

Over the last few years, highway construction has been the most hazardous occupation in the United States. However, most of the people killed or injured in work zones are motorists, not workers. On the national level, the year 2000 saw 1,093 persons killed in highway work zone accidents. This was an increase of 26 percent over 1999 and an all-time record according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System database. Road construction workers accounted for 163 of the victims.

According to the most recent statistics, the top five offenses charged to motorists in work zones last year were:

  • Reckless driving (exceeding safe speed)
  • Following too closely
  • Failure to yield right-of-way
  • Improper lane change
  • Failure to maintain control
"I'm hearing a lot about 'water-trading' but I'm not sure what it is and how it might affect us. Care to shed some light on the subject?"

You're hearing more about it now because EPA brought the issue back into the spotlight in May by proposing a Water Quality Trading Policy which is designed to speed up clean-weather objectives. To date, water trading has involved earning and trading "credits" to achieve environmental compliance. The basic concept has been that "overachievers"—those who are working hard to meet the compliance standards for reducing air emissions, stormwater runoff, or point-source discharge—have earned "credits" that they can sell to property owners or dischargers who have not made the same effective efforts to control the problems emitted from their property. EPA's policy hasn't changed with regard to the stringent federal standards. However, they are looking at this as a mechanism to make it easier for people to comply, or to give them a strong financial incentive to improve water quality than they otherwise would.

EPA is soliciting your comments and examples of where trading is working or might reasonably be applied. To offer your comments, or for more detailed information about the program, visit the EPA website at: www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/tradecom.html.

Does anyone have questions about anything? We need your questions to make this an interesting column. Please send them to Ann and then look for a response.

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd.
Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to (816) 471-0405
E-mail: adaniels@apwa.net