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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

Raymond M. Corley
Safety and Occupational Health Manager
GS-018-13
Safety Division
Health and Safety Directorate
Sales, Marketing, and Policy Group
Defense Commissary Agency
U. S. Department of Defense
Fort Lee, Virginia
Safety and Occupational Health Manager
GS-018-13
C-0018-13-02

Robert D. Hendler
Classification and Pay Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance

07/17/2014


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a classification certificate, which is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government.  The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision.  There is no right of further appeal.  This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in 5 CFR 511.605, 511.613, and 511.614, as cited in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

As discussed in this decision, the appellant’s position description (PD) is not adequate for purposes of classification.  Since PDs must meet the standards of adequacy in the Introduction, the appellant’s agency must revise his PD to meet the standard.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the corrected PD and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted to the U. S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) office that adjudicated this appeal within 45 days of the date of this decision.

Introduction

On November 19, 2013, OPM’s Agency Compliance and Evaluation (ACE)-Atlanta accepted a classification appeal from Mr. Raymond M. Corley and on February 24, 2014, it was transferred to ACE-Philadelphia for adjudication.  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Safety and Occupational Health Manager, GS-018-13, and is located in the Safety Division; Health and Safety Directorate; Sales, Marketing, and Policy Group; Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), at Fort Lee, Virginia.  The appellant believes his position should be upgraded to the GS-14 grade level.  We received the complete agency administrative report on January 6, 2014, and have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112(b) of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

General issues

The appellant raises concerns about his organization’s classification review process.  By law, we must make our decision solely by comparing the appellant’s current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCSs) and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of his position.  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, the agency’s classification review process is not germane to this decision.

Position information

DeCA operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees, and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment.  Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a five percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones.  DeCA facilities consist of 250 commissaries, 12 central distribution centers (CDC), one central meat processing plant (CMPP), and DeCA headquarters buildings at Fort Lee, Virginia, Sacramento, California, and Ramstein, Germany.  Because the commissaries are located throughout the world, DeCA manages them by geographic area.  DeCA East, Central, and West support the continental United States and Puerto Rico, DeCA Europe supports Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and DeCA Pacific supports the remainder of Asia.  Each Area Director oversees approximately 50 commissaries.  Each area is broken down into approximately five zones, each with a Zone Manager and each commissary with a Store Manager.  A Director oversees the CDCs and the CMPP.  The CDCs are located throughout Europe and the Pacific and distribute products to be sold in the commissaries within their areas.  The CMPP, located in Ramstein, Germany, distributes approximately 96 million pounds of processed meat a year to be sold in commissaries throughout Europe.

The appellant agrees his official PD of record, number HQ14008, accurately reflects his assigned duties and responsibilities.  His supervisor has also certified to the accuracy of the appellant’s PD.  Nevertheless, the PD includes statements within the major duties that are not supported by the record.  For example, the PD includes a statement that the appellant assists in developing safety and occupational health (SOH) reporting procedures throughout DoD.  Instead, the record shows he provides comments through his organization’s upper-level management to DoD on, for example, DoD’s proposed accident reporting procedures.  The PD includes numerous references to DeCA being an "agency," which, as addressed later in this decision, is inaccurate for purposes of classification.  The PD includes a statement that the appellant develops new concepts to resolve previously unresolved and extremely complicated SOH issues.  While he develops procedures for SOH issues which have not been previously encountered, the record shows these issues are rarely “extremely complicated” as defined within the context of the applicable PCS.

The PD also includes statements under the rating factors not supported by the record.  For example, the PD describes the position as requiring an expert knowledge of SOH concepts, principles, etc.  As discussed later in this decision, the position does not require this level of knowledge.  We also find the PD’s description of supervision received by the appellant is inaccurate in that he receives more than just administrative direction from his supervisor.  Under complexity, the PD erroneously states he establishes concepts, theories, or programs involving extremely complicated issues where limited or no precedent exists. 

Because PDs must meet the minimum standard of adequacy as described in the Introduction, the appellant’s PD must be updated so there is a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities representing the approved classification.  Regardless, an OPM decision classifies a real operating position and not simply a PD.  We have decided this appeal based on an assessment of the actual work assigned to and performed by the appellant.

To help us decide the appeal, we conducted telephone interviews with the appellant on March 19, 21, 24, 2014, and his immediate supervisor on April 23, 2014.  In reaching our classification decision, we have carefully considered all of the information obtained from the interviews, as well as all other information of record provided by the appellant and his agency.

The record shows the appellant performs the following duties:

The appellant’s position is located at Headquarters (HQ) DeCA.  He spends about 70 percent of his time overseeing the SOH program for all employees, patrons, and contractors at DeCA facilities and serves as the point-of-contact on such issues.  In developing DeCAM 30-17.1, the SOH requirements for DeCA , he used the requirements in Public Law, Executive Order, U.S. Department of Labor’s (DoL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, and DoD instructions.

He reviews the Site Safety and Health Plan developed by each Area Director with input from the appellant’s subordinate providing support to the Area.  The appellant ensures the plan implements the goals of the DeCA SOH program requirements and makes changes as needed.

The appellant provides comments on DoD and OSHA proposed rules and modifications of existing rules.  He develops the organization’s position on the proposal to include any impact; e.g. monetary.  Once the rules are finalized, the appellant makes program changes as needed and informs all required personnel.

He develops a schedule ensuring each facility receives a Safety Program Assistance and Review (SPAR) evaluation once every three years by his assigned subordinate.  The evaluation measures how well the SOH requirements are being implemented at each facility.  The appellant tabulates the results to determine in which areas he needs to modify the DeCA SOH requirements or what measures need to be taken to improve implementation at the facility; e.g., additional training or using an ergonomically designed meat-cutting machine.

He develops procedures to deal with occupational health hazards.  If an employee(s) is exposed to hazardous noise, the appellant analyzes the situation to see if the hazard can be eliminated.  If that is not possible, he looks for ways to control the exposure to the hazard; e.g. can the hours the employee is exposed to the hazard be reduced, or can personal protective equipment (PPE) be used to provide a barrier to the hazard such as earplugs.

He develops SOH training to include the materials and format for all levels of personnel on various safety topics.  For example, the appellant developed Webinar training for commissary employees with safety as an additional duty.

The appellant provides information on the results of Webinar training, and develops statistical information on accidents occurring at the facilities for presentation to senior management on a quarterly basis.  He analyzes such things as whether safety is improving or if employees are attending training as required, and proposes ways to make improvements.  For example, because of low employee attendance at training, the Deputy Director spoke on film at an agency warehouse about the need for employees to attend safety training.

If someone contacts the DeCA Equal Employment Opportunity Office requesting guidance on a reasonable accommodation, the appellant weighs in on any safety issues.  For example, when a commissary cashier needed more than one tank of oxygen during the work shift, the appellant raised safety issues such as whether the tank was positioned so that it would not be knocked down, and whether the fire department inspected the tank to ensure it would not rupture.

The appellant serves as the DeCA subject matter expert (SME) for safety issues when disputes arise between DeCA and the host installation over the terms outlined in the Interservice Support Agreement (ISSA)- a contract stating the support functions the host installation will provide to its tenant activities.  The ISSA is written by host installation finance personnel and the designated Support Agreement Managers for the host installation and the tenant activities discuss and agree upon the level of support provided to the tenant and the amount of money the host installation will receive for the provided support.  The appellant discusses and resolves the disputed issues with the host installation’s Support Agreement Manager and SMEs for safety issues.  He is also working with the DoD Safety Office personnel to develop standard language to use in ISSAs for safety issues.

To publicize SOH, the appellant started the Integrated Monthly Safety Action Focus Elements (IMSAFE) program.  Each month he disseminates a bulletin containing various safety reminders; e.g. contact information on SOH support for each area, to all agency facilities.

The appellant calls into the DoD Safety Office for their monthly meeting.  In this meeting, representatives from all the DoD components discuss how they are dealing with the safety issue under discussion.  He serves on the Accident Data Requirement Working Group, along with other DoD component representatives to determine the minimum questions which need to be answered in order to know how an accident occurred.

The appellant prepares annually a safety and health report which he submits through his chain-of-command to DoD.  OSHA develops questions for which each agency needs to provide information on topics such as the results of facility SOH evaluations, training that was provided and if it improved facility safety, and any budgetary increases needed to effectively administer SOH requirements.  DoD takes elements of the appellant’s responses for the DoD report prior to submitting it to DoL.  The appellant’s report is included as an appendix to the DoD report. 

The appellant spends about 30 percent of his time supervising, directing, and providing technical oversight to his five assigned staff members.  He is the first-level supervisor of a staff of five GS-12 Safety and Occupational Health Specialists (one position is vacant) and a GS-13 Lead Safety and Occupational Health Specialist who provide SOH advisory services to the Area Directors and senior-level officials at the area offices at Fort Lee, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; San Antonio, Texas; Sacramento, California; and Ramstein, Germany.  One GS-12 staff member is assigned to each area office except for DeCA East at Fort Lee where the position is currently vacant.  The appellant ensures each area receives advisory services as needed assists the appellant with overseeing the work assigned to each area.  The appellant’s supervisory functions are described in more detail later in this decision.

Series, title and standard determination

The agency classified the appellant’s position to the Safety and Occupational Health Series, GS-018, titled it Safety and Occupational Health Manager, and used the GS-018 Position Classification Standard (PCS) to evaluate the position.  Based on a review of the record, we concur that the appellant’s position is classified in the appropriate series and is titled correctly.

Grade determination

Evaluation of nonsupervisory SOH duties using the GS-018 PCS

The GS-018 PCS uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES), which employs nine factors.  Under the FES, each factor level description in a standard describes the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  Therefore, if a position fails to meet the criteria in a factor level description in any significant aspect, it must be credited at a lower level, unless an equally important aspect that meets a higher level balances the deficiency.  Conversely, the position may exceed those criteria in some aspects and still not be credited at a higher level.  Each factor level has a corresponding point value.  The total points assigned are converted to a grade by use of the grade conversion table in the standard.

The appellant disagrees with the agency's evaluation of Factors 3 and 5.  After careful review, we concur with the agency's evaluation of Factors 6, 7, 8, and 9.  However, we disagree with their evaluation of Factors 1, 2, and 4.  Therefore, we have confined our analysis to Factors 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts that the safety and occupational health manager must understand to do acceptable work (for example, steps, procedures, practices, rules, policies, theories, principles, and concepts) and the nature and extent of the skills of a safety and occupational health manager related to the planning, organizing, directing, and evaluating of a safety program.

At Level 1-7, the work requires knowledge of a wide range of safety and occupational health concepts, principles, practices, laws, and regulations applicable to the performance of complex administrative responsibilities that require the planning, organizing, directing, operating, and evaluation of a safety and occupational health program.  Alternatively, work at this level may require comprehensive knowledge of regulations, standards, procedures, methods, and techniques applicable to a broad range of safety and occupational health duties in one or more specific areas of safety and occupational health.  Safety and occupational health managers at this level must have knowledge and skill sufficient to manage a safety and occupational health program with diverse but recognized hazards, achieving compliance with regulatory provisions and effectively communicating multiple safety and occupational health practices and procedures to staff and line personnel and to modify or significantly depart from standard techniques in devising specialized operating practices concerned with accomplishing project safety and occupational health objectives.

In addition to the knowledge and skills described at Level 1-7, work at Level 1-8 requires expert knowledge of safety and occupational health concepts, principles, laws, regulations, and precedent decisions that provide the capability to recommend substantive program changes or alternative new courses of managerial action requiring the extension and modification of existing safety and occupational health management techniques critical to the resolution of safety and occupational health management problems.  Alternatively, managers at Level 1-8 must have knowledge sufficient to serve as a technical authority and make significant, far-reaching decisions or recommendations in the development, interpretation or application of the principal agency safety and occupational health policies or critical criteria.  The PCS includes the following illustrations of Level 1-8 work:

  • applying expert knowledge of special hazards (for example, ballistic missile research) and recommending control measures devised through extension of      present guidelines or analysis of new safety procedures;
  • using expert knowledge of special analytical techniques (for example, fault tree analysis and risk tree analysis) sufficient to identify high safety risks to military flight and supporting ground systems of a major military command and recommend program changes affecting the testing, maintenance, and operation of these systems;
  • applying knowledge sufficient to (1) manage a program in a worldwide setting for military explosives and hazardous materials (munitions, chemical, and radiological substances), (2) develop and apply safety policies, controlling their use, storage, handling, and transportation, and (3) authorize exemption from critical explosive requirements;
  • using knowledge sufficient to manage the safety and occupational health program of a major industrial operation requiring the development and application of technical standards to major industrial operations (for example, shipyards and airfields) and advise top management on methods and procedures for controlling the introduction of new equipment and toxic and radiological materials; and
  •  applying knowledge to develop and recommend to the agency administrator critical programs that (1) require modification of known safety and occupational health techniques and (2) are applicable to an extensive range of health care operations and highly hazardous health research activities.

Level 1-7 is met.  The position requires a comprehensive knowledge of established safety and occupational health regulations, standards, procedures, and best practices applicable to a wide range of safety and occupational health duties associated with the DeCA SOH program.

Level 1-8 is not met.  The criteria involving the application of “expert knowledge” must be viewed within the context of the types of illustrations provided at this level; i.e., “expert knowledge” encompasses the depth and breadth of knowledge associated with the most technically complex SOH situations.  Thus, an SOH specialist who encounters only the routine physical and environmental hazards occurring in office buildings and other non-industrial settings may be considered a local “expert” in his or her field, but would not be considered an expert within the meaning of Level 1-8.  Applying this to the present case, the appellant provides SOH services to headquarters buildings, commissaries, CDCs, and a CMPP.  However, these areas present the common and recurring hazards associated with the conventional trade-related work processes covered by Level 1-7 rather than the more unpredictable, unprecedented, and hazardous activities contemplated at Level 1-8.  The types of SOH hazards that arise are addressed in DeCAM 30-17.1 which include such non-industrial topics as office safety, ergonomics, and storage, and such common facility-related concerns as noise abatement, tool and machine safety, powered industrial truck safety, manual material handling equipment safety, fire protection and prevention, and fall protection.  As such, the appellant’s work setting neither requires nor permits him the opportunity to exercise the degree of “expert knowledge” depicted at this level, which would be associated with such technically complex work settings as a ballistic research laboratory, a munitions, chemical or radiological storage facility, or a major industrial operation or military flight facility.  DeCA does not encompass the types of dynamic industrial or research environments described in the Level 1-8 illustrations that would produce new or evolving hazards requiring these types of major SOH program responses.

Alternately, the appellant’s position does not require knowledge sufficient to serve as a “technical authority.”  This term refers to an employee who has authority (i.e., programmatic control) over the activities of other technical staff (i.e., within the same occupational field), such as through the development and issuance of policy directives and procedural instructions for application by the technical staff at subordinate levels of the organization, or as described at Level 1-8, the principal agency safety and occupational health policies or critical criteria.  The exercise of this “technical authority” is thus limited to agency-level or equivalent positions with the supporting subordinate organizational structure.  DeCA is not an independent “agency,” it is an organizational unit below an agency for purposes of applying the GS-018 PCS.  Within the context of the appellant’s work situation, DoD or any of its major military service components (i.e., the Departments of the Army (DA), Navy, and Air Force, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), etc.) would be considered “agencies,” whereas DeCA would be considered equivalent to a bureau.  Further, DeCA has no subordinate organizational levels and its mission is limited to providing SOH support directly to a serviced population through its own on-site SOH specialists, as opposed to instructing SOH specialists at subordinate levels of the organization on the conduct of their local program activities.  Therefore, the appellant neither serves as a technical authority nor does DeCA provide an organizational structure to support the exercise of this authority.  Although the appellant provides comments on DoD and OSHA SOH directives, this may not be credited at Level 1-8 because he does not have technical authority over their ultimate content.  Instead, he updates DeCA directives to ensure they comply with DoD and OSHA policies.

This factor is evaluated at Level 1-7 and 1,250 points are assigned.

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the employee’s responsibility, and the review of completed work.

At Level 2-4, the supervisor sets the overall safety and occupational health objectives and management resources available to achieve the expected results.  Program or specialized requirements and time constraints typically are developed in consultation with the supervisor.  At this level, the employee typically has responsibility for independently planning and carrying out a safety and occupation health program or a significant assignment and resolving most conflicts and hazardous situations.  The work is coordinated with principal organizational representatives, and initiative must be taken to interpret safety and occupational health policy, standards, and regulations in terms of established objectives.  The course of action to be taken or methods and techniques to be applied may also be determined by the employee.  The supervisor is kept informed of progress, potentially controversial safety and occupational health matters, or far-reaching implications.  Completed work such as reports of program accomplishments are reviewed only from an overall standpoint in terms of compatibility with other activities, or effectiveness in meeting safety and occupational health objectives.

At Level 2-5, the supervisor provides administrative direction with assignments in terms of broadly defined safety and occupational health mission or functional goals.  The safety and occupational health manager independently plans, designs, and carries out programs within the framework of applicable laws.  As the safety and occupational health manager at this level typically provides technical leadership, work results are considered authoritative and are normally accepted without significant change.  If the work is reviewed, the review usually is focused on such matters as fulfillment of program objectives, effect of advice, or the contribution to the advancement of safety and occupational health management.  Recommendations for changes in program direction or the initiation of new safety and occupational health management projects are usually evaluated for such considerations as availability of funds and other resources and relationship to broad program goals or national priorities.

Level 2-4 is met.  The supervisory controls under which the appellant works are accurately represented at this level, which describes work carried out with a high degree of independence and recognized expertise in the SOH field to coordinate with others, determine the actions necessary, and resolve technical problems.  Similar to this level, the appellant’s supervisor ensures that the immediate and long-range goals and objectives, which the appellant develops are consistent with the DeCA mission and the Director’s vision and intent for the organization. 

Level 2-5 is not met.  This level recognizes not only independence of action, but also the degree of responsibility and authority inherent in the work as the context for the independence exercised.  Level 2-5 is predicated on responsibility for independently planning and carrying out major program activities or projects, with only broad administrative and policy direction.  Because the parameters of the work are not clearly defined, the employee at this level has the authority to determine the most productive areas of endeavor.

The appellant is not responsible for the DeCA SOH program.  Although he works independently, he works on assigned tasks and continuing responsibilities within the established program parameters of OSHA, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Department of Commerce regulatory requirements, rather than defining his own “areas of endeavor.”  The appellant’s supervisor, the Director of Public Health and Safety, approves the SOH program goals and objectives, serves as the point of contact for day-to-day safety issues, provides technical consultation to DeCA’s executive leadership, and serves as DeCA’s Designated Agency Safety and Health Official.  As such, the position held by the appellant’s supervisor is delegated the degree of program authority depicted at Level 2-5.

This factor is evaluated at Level 2-4 and 450 points are assigned.

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor covers the nature of guidelines and the judgment needed to apply them.

In his appeal rationale, the appellant asserts he meets Level 3-5 because his position is the highest-level safety position within DeCA.  He states that according to his PD, his position is responsible for developing agency policy; therefore, there is no higher-level SOH policy to use as a guideline.  He also states his position is organizationally equivalent to similar positions within the Departments of Army, Navy, and Air Force because the next higher-level guidelines applicable to DeCA come from OSHA.  The appellant further states he uses external guidelines, agency policies, and mission statements to perform work and develop new approaches and concepts.

At Level 3-4, the available guidelines tend to lack specificity for many applications such as departmental or agency policies, recent developmental results, and findings and approaches of nationally recognized safety and occupational health organizations.  These guidelines also are often insufficient to resolve highly complex or unusual work problems, such as determining the potential hazard of detonating various experimental explosive devices in a research and development environment.  The safety and occupational health manager must modify and extend accepted principles and practices in the development of solutions to problems where available precedents are not directly applicable.  Experienced judgment and initiative are required to evaluate new trends for policy development or for further inquiry and study leading to new methods for eliminating or controlling serious hazards to life and property.

At Level 3-5, work is performed chiefly under basic legislation, agency policies, and mission statements requiring extensive interpretation and ingenuity for adaptation.  As a technical authority, the safety and occupational health manager develops new approaches and concepts where precedent does not exist, as well as nationwide standards, procedures, and instructions to guide operating safety and occupational health personnel.

Level 3-4 is met.  As at this level, the appellant’s guidelines tend to lack specificity for many applications and are often insufficient to resolve unusual work problems.  The appellant modifies and extends DoD and OSHA guidance because they state the SOH requirements which each organization must meet but do not include ways to mitigate the unique safety hazards encountered at DeCA commissaries, CDC’s, and the CMPP.  The appellant must take the SOH program requirements and develop ways to meet them in grocery store, distribution center, and meat processing plant settings.  Examples include developing Webinar training for commissary employees with safety as an additional duty, working with DoD Safety Office personnel to develop standard language to use in ISSAs concerning the safety functions to be provided by the host activity, and developing the organization’s position on proposed DoD and OSHA rules and modifications of existing rules.  As another example, he analyzes the data on accidents submitted by each facility in order to determine which need additional assistance with lowering their accident rates; e.g., determining whether there are problems with the established SOH requirements being implemented or with the training of the employees.  The appellant’s work requires adapting known SOH regulations and techniques to eliminate or reduce serious hazards to life and property as described at Level 3-4. 

Level 3-5 is not met.  The appellant’s guidelines are more specific than the basic legislation and broad policy statements expected at Level 3-5.  His guidelines include national standards from OSHA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other health organizations; DoD policy and regulations; and Federal, State, and local codes.  The appellant adapts the guidelines to specific work situations, devising approaches and measures meeting the intent of the guides.  Unlike Level 3-5, the appellant does not develop new approaches and concepts where precedent does not exist.

Further, within the context of Level 3-5, an employee’s status as a “technical authority” would be reflected in his or her work assignments, which would involve the development of “nationwide standards, procedures, and instructions” to provide the framework for the program activities of other technical staff.  The appellant does not occupy a position of such technical authority, and he does not originate and develop nationwide standards, procedures, or instructions to guide operating-level safety and occupational health personnel as described at Level 3-5.  Although the appellant developed DeCA’s SOH program requirements, they are more accurately described as component-level operating instructions that apply to DeCA rather than to all DoD.  DoD guidance is not limited to broad policy statements, thus limiting the nature and level of interpretation and adaptation vested in the appellant’s position.

This factor is evaluated at Level 3-4 and 450 points are assigned.

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor covers the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of tasks, steps, processes, or methods in the work performed; the difficulty in identifying what needs to be done; and the difficulty and originality involved in performing the work.

At Level 4-4, assignments cover a wide range of work operations and environmental conditions involving a substantial number and diversity of hazards or a wide variety of independent and continuing assignments in a specialized area of safety and occupational health that have exacting technical requirements.  The employee evaluates a variety of complex, interrelated physical conditions, operating practices, hazardous human-machine interaction, and serious mishaps.  Assignments require analysis of unconventional safety and occupational health problems or circumstances, inconclusive facts or data and are characterized by the uncertainty of accepted control or abatement methods that are available for selection and use.  The nature of the hazards is such that generally no single approach is adequate to control or eliminate a given problem; rather, the adaptation of proven safety and occupational health techniques is necessary.  The work typically requires interpretation of a variety of occupational circumstances to adapt known control or protective measures to eliminate or minimize hazardous situations.

At Level 4-5, the work includes broad and diverse assignments requiring innovative analysis of high safety risk activities.  The safety and occupational health manager weighs, considers and evaluates (1) high safety risks in a field with constantly changing hazards, or (2) serious conflicts between operational requirements involving hazardous materials and the application of safety and occupational health standards that require protective measures affecting the timeliness of mission accomplishment, or (3) diverse hazardous work processes and environmental conditions for a broad field characterized by a wide variety of problems such as extreme fluctuation in workforce employees assigned high safety risk jobs, large number of visitors engaged in hazardous activities, or widespread geographic dispersion of operations.  In many instances, elimination or control of unsound but often traditional work practices and dangerous physical conditions threatening individual safety and property requires the development of new accident prevention techniques for modification of accepted specialized safety procedures.

Level 4-4 is met.  Consistent with this level, the appellant's assignments cover a wide range of work operations including office, distribution, and meat processing environments involving diverse hazards.  The appellant evaluates interrelated physical conditions, operating practices, human-machine interaction, and accident investigations requiring interpretation of a variety of occupational circumstances to adapt known control or protective measures to eliminate or minimize hazardous situations.

Level 4-5 is not met.  Although DeCA has worldwide facilities, the nature of the activities occurring in those facilities and the associated safety risks do not require the degree of innovative analysis and response expected at Level 4-5.  The appellant’s work does not require weighing, considering, and evaluating high risks in a field with constantly changing hazards.  Although DeCA facilities may present high safety risks, such as in the meat processing facilities, these hazards are relatively stable, predictable, and can be mitigated by the application of known techniques and best practices.  His work does not involve serious conflicts between safety standards and the timeliness of mission accomplishment because the DeCA mission is not driven by external timelines.  The appellant does not evaluate diverse hazardous work processes and environmental conditions for a broad field characterized by a wide variety of problems such as extreme fluctuation in workforce employees assigned high safety risk jobs, or a large number of visitors engaged in hazardous activities.  Visitors are not engaged in hazardous activities; they are shopping in a supermarket environment.  Further, DeCA operations do not routinely require control of unsound but often traditional work practices and dangerous physical conditions threatening individual safety and property requiring the development of new accident prevention techniques for modification of accepted specialized safety procedures so as to warrant crediting the appellant’s position at Level 4-5.

This factor is evaluated at Level 4-4 and 225 points are assigned.

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor covers the relationship between the nature of the work, as measured by the purpose, breadth, and depth of the assignments, and the effect of work products or services both within and outside the organization.

In his appeal rationale, the appellant asserts his position meets Level 5-6 because it affects all DeCA employees, all contractor personnel, all patrons, private sector corporations doing business with DeCA, and other government and private sector organizations.  He further states the purpose of his position is to plan, develop, initiate, and carry out the DeCA national and international safety program.

At Level 5-4, the purpose of the work is to assess the effectiveness of specific programs, projects, or functions.  The safety and occupational health manager plans alternative courses of specialized action to resolve hazardous conditions and unsafe working practices.  The work often involves the development of safety and occupational health criteria and procedures for major agency activities.  Work products affect (1) a wide range of agency safety and occupational health programs or (2) safety and occupational health programs of large, private sector establishments.

At Level 5-5, the purpose of the work is to resolve critical safety and occupational health problems often involving serious hazards of unpredictable consequences to humans and property.  The work requires the development of new guides, approaches, and methods often under difficult circumstances such as when confronted by conflicting viewpoints and resource constraints.  At this level, the safety and occupational health manager or specialist often serves as a consultant providing expert advice and guidance covering a broad range of safety and occupational health activities to officials, principal program managers, and other safety and occupational health mangers or specialists.  The work efforts affect the activities of safety and occupational health managers and specialists both within and outside the agency.

At Level 5-6, the purpose of the work is to plan, develop, initiate, and carry out critical agency safety and occupational health programs and projects which have national and in some cases international impact.  The safety and occupational health manager’s recommendations and decisions on complex technical and policy issues where there may be intense public concern frequently becomes official agency policy, sets agency precedents and determines actions to be taken by field organizations on matters having far-reaching implications.  The actions of the safety and occupational health manager have a continuing and long term effect on the agency’s programs and frequently on the policies and operations of other governmental and private sector organizations.

Level 5-4 is met.  The appellant is responsible for applying the methods, techniques, and abatements to control or eliminate unsafe acts or conditions for a broad range of activities within DeCA.  As at Level 5-4, he assesses the adequacy of existing SOH safeguards and works closely with managers, supervisors, and employees throughout the organization in identifying hazardous conditions and developing and promoting safety and abatement measures.  His work efforts result in eliminating or reducing unsafe acts and conditions and affects a wide range of SOH activities within DeCA and its facilities.

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 5-5, which describes a broader, more complex, and more technically challenging program than the DeCA SOH program.  While his work may occasionally involve some serious safety and health issues, the appellant does not regularly resolve critical problems involving hazards of unpredictable consequences to humans and property as described at Level 5-5.  Rather than developing new guides or methods to reduce or eliminate hazards, the appellant generally adapts or develops procedures for DeCA use based on, for example, OSHA, USDA, and U.S. Department of Commerce requirements.  His work efforts result in minimizing unsafe acts and conditions within the facilities but do not affect the program activities of other SOH managers and specialists both within and outside the agency (i.e., outside DoD, or private sector organizations). 

Because the appellant’s position does not meet Level 5-5, we will not discuss Level 5-6.

This factor is evaluated at Level 5-4 and 225 points are assigned.

Summary

Factor Level Points
1.  Knowledge required by the position 1-7 1250
2.  Supervisory controls 2-4 450
3.  Guidelines 3-4 450
4.  Complexity 4-4 225
5.  Scope and effect 5-4 225
6.  Personal contacts 6-3 60
7.  Purpose of contacts 7-3 120
8.  Physical demands 8-1 5
9.  Work environment 9-1 5
Total points 2790

 

The total of 2790 points falls within the GS-12 point range (2755-3150) on the grade conversion table in the GS-018 PCS.  Therefore, the appellant’s nonsupervisory duties are graded at the GS-12 level.

Evaluation of supervisory duties using the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG)

The GSSG is a cross-series guide used to determine the grade level of supervisory positions in the General Schedule.  The GSSG has six evaluation factors, each with several factor-level definitions and corresponding point values.  Positions are evaluated by crediting the points designated for the highest level met under each factor, and converting the total to a grade by using the point-to-grade conversion chart in the guide.

The appellant disagrees with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 1 and 3.  After careful review, we concur with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 2, 4A, 4B, 5, and 6.  Therefore, we have confined our analysis to Factors 1 and 3.

Factor 1, Program scope and effect

This factor assesses the general complexity, breadth, and impact of the program areas and work directed, including its organizational and geographic coverage.  It also assesses the impact of the work both within and outside the immediate organization.  To assign a factor, the criteria dealing with both scope and effect, as defined below, must be met.

In his appeal rationale, the appellant states his position meets Level 1-5 because his PD states he is responsible for the entire SOH program, not a program segment which is the scope found at Levels 1-3 and 1-4.  He also states the definition of “program” within the GSSG lists safety as a program involving broad objectives.  He further states his PD shows the SOH program he manages affects the entire DeCA “agency” in 12 countries, 2 U.S. territories, and 46 states which impacts all employees, contractor employees, business partners, and patrons (approximately 12 million shoppers) and that he develops policy.

Because the appellant states his position manages an SOH program for the DeCA “agency,” we will discuss whether the GSSG’s definitions for “agency” and “program” are met by DeCA and his program responsibilities, respectively.

The GSSG defines “agency” as follows:  An Executive or military department as specified by 5 U.S.C. 101, 102, and 5102, which has primary authority and responsibility for the administration of substantive national programs enacted by Congress; a comparable independent agency; or a large agency next below DOD with worldwide missions and field activities, multibillion dollar programs or resources to manage, and major mission(s) directly affecting the national security.  The head of an agency is usually appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.  For example, DOL, USDA, the Department of Health and Human Services, DA, Navy, Air Force, the General Services Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, and DLA are Agencies for purposes of this guide.

In addition, where five or more of the following conditions apply, an activity next below departmental level may be considered as equivalent to this definition for purposes of applying this guide: (1) the activity comprises or manages more than half of a cabinet level department's resources; (2) the activity has an international mission, and/or numerous Nationwide and worldwide field offices; (3) the activity manages multibillion dollar funds accounts typically separate from normal, departmental budgets (e.g., Social Security trust funds, IRS collections); (4) the activity deals directly with Congress on major budgetary, program, or legislative matters affecting large segments of the population or the Nation's businesses, or both; (5) the activity head is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate; (6) the activity exercises special statutory powers such as a Nationwide, quasi-judicial function affecting major industries or large segments of the population; (7) the activity manages directly delegated or statutorily assigned programs that have an impact which is Government wide or economy wide and that receive frequent, intensive, congressional and media scrutiny.

DeCA does not meet the definition of “agency” in the first paragraph.  DeCA is not an executive or military department with authority and responsibility for a significant national program enacted by Congress as listed in 5 U.S.C.101, 102, and 5102; e.g. DoD, DA, or DLA.  It is not a comparable independent agency or a large activity directly below DoD with worldwide missions and field activities, multibillion dollar programs or resources, and major mission(s) directly affecting the national security.  DeCA is large but it does not directly affect national security.  Because all of these elements must be met, DeCA does not meet the definition of agency. 

Because the first paragraph is not met, we then look to the second.  If an activity directly below the departmental level meets five or more of the conditions listed, it meets the GSSG definition of “agency.”  The first condition is not met since DeCA does not comprise or manage more than half of a cabinet level department’s resources.  The second condition is met since DeCA has nationwide and worldwide facilities.  The third condition is met since DeCA manages a multibillion-dollar working capital fund account.  The fourth condition is not met since DeCA does not deal directly with Congress on major issues affecting large segments of the population or the Nation’s businesses or both, as the DeCA customer base is not of comparable size.  The fifth condition is not met since the President does not appoint the civilian Senior Executive Service (SES) employee who heads DeCA.  The sixth condition is not met since DeCA does not exercise special statutory powers.  The seventh condition is not met since DeCA does not manage directly delegated or statutorily assigned programs with a Government wide or economy wide impact nor does it receive frequent, intensive, congressional or media scrutiny.  Because DeCA does not meet at least five of the conditions, it does not meet the definition of “agency” in the second paragraph.

The GSSG defines bureau as an organizational unit next below the agency level (as defined above) which is normally headed by an official of Executive Level IV or V, or Senior Executive Service (SES) rank, or the equivalent.  It is a component of a civilian agency directed by an appointed executive who reports to the Agency Director or the Director's immediate staff.  Examples of bureaus include DoL's Bureau of Labor Statistics and the USDA’s Forest Service.

DeCA meets the definition of a bureau, a component just below the agency level; i.e. DoD, since an SES employee directs the organization and its mission is to provide a support service to active duty and retired military members and their families.

The GSSG defines program as the mission, functions, projects, activities, laws, rules, and regulations which an agency is authorized and funded by statute to administer and enforce.  Exercise of delegated authority to carry out program functions and services constitutes the essential purpose for the establishment and continuing existence of an agency.  The focus of a program may be on providing products and services to the public, State and local government, private industry, foreign countries, or Federal agencies.  Most programs have an impact or effect which is external to the administering agency.  In addition, comparable agencywide line or staff programs essential to the operation of an agency are considered programs in applying this guide; the impact of these programs may be limited to activities within one or a few Federal agencies.

A program may be professional, scientific, technical, administrative, or fiscal in nature.  Typically, programs involve broad objectives such as national defense; law enforcement; public health, safety, and well-being; collection of revenue; regulation of trade; collection and dissemination of information; and the delivery of benefits or services.  However, specialized or staff programs may be considerably narrower in scope (e.g., merit systems protection; nuclear safety; and agencywide personnel or budget programs).  Programs are usually of such magnitude that they must be carried out through a combination of line and staff functions.

The DeCA SOH function is staff in nature but is not comparable to the scope, complexity and impact of staff functions which meet the definition of a “program” in the GSSG, e.g., the DoD-wide, Army-wide, Air Force-wide, etc., budget or human resources program.

The GSSG defines program segment as a generic term for purposes of this guide and refers to any subdivision of a program or major military function.  The appellant’s position meets the definition of program segment since he manages the SOH, a subdivision of bureau-level staff function within DoD. 

Scope

This element addresses the general complexity and breadth of the program (or program segment) directed; or the work directed, the products produced, or the services delivered.  The geographic and organizational coverage of the program (or program segment) within the agency structure is included under this element.  OPM guidance indicates that there is a dynamic at work that deals with the interaction of four aspects implicit in the concept of Scope: (1) sweep: the geographic coverage of the program; e.g., city, region, or state; (2) magnitude: the total population serviced directly and significantly by the program; (3) importance: the importance of the program to the agency and its mission (whether line or staff, whether involving service to higher agency levels, other agencies, or the general public); and, (4) complexity: the complexity of the products or services provided (e.g., routine or complicated). In deciding whether a position meets a level, one must consider each of these implicit aspects and how they interact. No one aspect is necessarily predominant. The examples provided in the Factor Level Descriptions are illustrative of the interaction of these four aspects implicit in Scope.

Effect

This element addresses the impact of the work, the products, and/or programs described under “Scope” on the mission and programs of the customer(s), the activity, other activities in or out of government, the agency, other agencies, the general public, or others.

Scope

At Level 1-3, the position directs a program segment that performs technical, administrative, protective, investigative, or professional work.  The program segment and work directed typically have coverage which encompasses a major metropolitan area, a State, or a small region of several States; or, when most of an area's taxpayers or businesses are covered, coverage comparable to a small city.  Providing complex administrative or technical or professional services directly affecting a large or complex multi mission military installation also falls at this level.

At Level 1-4, the position directs a segment of a professional, highly technical, or complex administrative program which involves the development of major aspects of key agency scientific, medical, legal, administrative, regulatory, policy development or comparable, highly technical programs; or that includes major, highly technical operations at the Government's largest, most complex industrial installations.  Illustrative of such work is directing administrative services (personnel, supply management, budget, facilities management, or similar) which support and directly affect the operations of a bureau or a major military command headquarters; a large or complex multimission military installation; an organization of similar magnitude; or a group of organizations which, as a whole, are comparable.

At Level 1-5, the position directs a program for which both the scope and impact of the program or organization directed are one or more of the following: Nationwide; agencywide; industry-wide; Government-wide; directly involve the national interest or the agency's national mission; are subject to continual or intense congressional and media scrutiny or controversy; or have pervasive impact on the general public or directs critical program segments, major scientific projects, or key high level organizations with comparable scope and impact.  Illustrative of such work is directing administrative activities (such as budget, management analysis, or personnel) conducted throughout, or covering the operations of, the agency's headquarters or most of its field establishment. The program segments directed materially shape or improve the structure, effectiveness, efficiency, or productivity of major portions of the agency's primary missions, multiregion programs, headquarters-wide operations, or projects of national interest.

The scope of the appellant’s position meets Level 1-3.  Similar to this level, he coordinates two-grade interval administrative work by providing SOH support to DeCA facilities worldwide.  His work assignments cover a wide range of work operations including office, distribution, and meat processing environments involving diverse hazards.  Unlike Level 1-4, the appellant’s position is not involved in developing major aspects of agency scientific, medical, legal, administrative, regulatory, policy development, or highly technical programs.  These SOH functions reside at DoD.  While the sweep of the appellant’s work is DeCA-wide found at Level 1-4 since DeCA is properly treated as a bureau-level organization, the SOH does not directly and significantly impact the population cited by the appellant as would, for example, IRS tax collection for the same population.  The SOH is a staff support function for the DeCA commissary operations mission.  Thus, the population directly and significantly impacted by the SOH is the DeCA workforce, while the other populations cited by the appellant are indirectly affected for the limited time they are on DeCA premises.  Therefore, while the SOH function is technically complex, it cannot be said to “materially shape or improve the structure, effectiveness, efficiency or productively of major portions” of the DeCA sales mission.  Thus, while aspects of the SOH meet Level 1-4, taken as a whole, the SOH fails to fully meet Level 1-4.

Scope is evaluated at Level 1-3.

Effect

At Level 1-3, the activities, functions, or services accomplished directly and significantly impact a wide range of agency activities, the work of other agencies, or the operations of outside interests (e.g., a segment of a regulated industry), or the general public.  At the field activity level (involving large, complex, multimission organizations and/or very large serviced populations) the work directly involves or substantially impacts the provision of essential support operations to numerous, varied, and complex technical, professional, and administrative functions.

At Level 1-4, the work impacts an agency's headquarters operations, several bureauwide programs, or most of an agency's entire field establishment; or facilitates the agency's accomplishment of its primary mission or programs of national significance; or impacts large segments of the Nation's population or segments of one or a few large industries; or receives frequent or continuing congressional or media attention.

At Level 1-5, the position directs a program for which both the scope and impact of the program or organization directed are one or more of the following: Nationwide; agency-wide; industry-wide; Government-wide; directly involve the national interest or the agency's national mission; are subject to continual or intense congressional and media scrutiny or controversy; or have pervasive impact on the general public or directs critical program segments, major scientific projects, or key high level organizations with comparable scope and impact.

The effect of the appellant’s position meets Level 1-3.  Similar to this level, the appellant applies methods and techniques to control or eliminate unsafe acts or conditions for a wide range of activities within DeCA.  He assesses the adequacy of existing SOH safeguards and works closely with all levels of employees throughout the organization in identifying hazardous conditions and developing and promoting safety and abatement measures within DeCA facilities.  Unlike Level 1-4, the impact of the appellant’s position is not felt at the agency level because DeCA is a sub-agency component, nor is the impact felt outside of DeCA direct and significant within the meaning of Level 1-4 as previously discussed. 

Effect is evaluated at Level 1-3.

Since both criteria for both components are credited at Level 1-3, 550 points are assigned.

Factor 3, Supervisory and managerial authority exercised

This factor covers the delegated supervisory and managerial authorities which are exercised on a recurring basis.  To be credited with a level under this factor, a position must meet the authorities and responsibilities to the extent described for the specific level.  The agency credited Level 3-2c and we concur and will not address this level further.

In order to fully meet Level 3-3, a position must meet the conditions described in paragraphs a or b under this factor level.  Level 3-3a describes managerial positions with authority to devise long-range staffing needs and which are closely involved with high-level program officials (or comparable agency-level staff personnel) in developing overall goals and objectives related to high levels of program management and development or formulation.  Based on a careful review of the record, we found Level 3-3a program planning authorities and responsibilities are not vested in the appellant’s position but with higher-level positions.  The appellant does not assert his position should be credited at Level 3-3a, but instead states his position meets Level 3-3b.

To meet Level 3-3b, a position must exercise all or nearly all of the delegated supervisory authorities and responsibilities at Level 3-2c of this factor and, in addition, at least eight of the fifteen responsibilities listed at Level 3-3b.  Our analysis of those responsibilities follows:

Responsibilities 1, 3, 5, 6, and 8 are not credited.  They are intended to be credited only to supervisors whose workload is so large and complex as to require direction through two or more subordinate supervisors, team leaders, or comparable personnel.  The appellant supervises only one team leader position.  The workload of the appellant’s organization is not so large and complex as to require or permit two such positions to each devote 25 percent or more of their work time on such leadership duties, given the relative freedom from supervision credited to the GS-12 SOH nonsupervisory positions and which is integral to supporting their classification at the GS-12 grade level.  Therefore, credit cannot be awarded for those five responsibilities.

Responsibility 2 is credited.  The appellant has significant responsibilities in dealing with officials of DeCA facilities and other units within HQ on all matters dealing with SOH issues.  In this role, he regularly advises facilities and HQ personnel on ways to control or eliminate unsafe acts or conditions.  He also advises management officials of higher rank on how DeCA facilities are implementing SOH requirements.

Responsibility 4 is not credited.  It involves direction of a program or major program segment with significant resources (e.g. one at a multi-million dollar level of annual resources).  The appellant stated the safety budget is approximately $750,000 dollars, which is below the multi-million dollar level.

Responsibility 7 is credited.  It involves making or approving selections for subordinate nonsupervisory positions.  When filling vacancies, the appellant conducts interviews with applicants and makes selections and his supervisor approves them.

Responsibility 9 is not credited.  It involves responsibility for hearing and resolving group grievances or serious employee complaints.  This responsibility is applicable to supervisors who routinely deal with such matters as a regular and recurring part of their duties.  While such matters fall within the responsibility of the appellant, he does not routinely deal with grievances and complaints.  Thus, this responsibility may not be credited.

Responsibility 10 is not credited.  It involves reviewing and approving serious disciplinary actions; e.g. suspensions involving nonsupervisory subordinates.  The appellant serves as the proposing official but approving authority is vested with his supervisor.

Responsibility 11 is not credited.  It involves making decisions on non-routine, costly, or controversial training needs and training requests related to employees of the unit.  The appellant provides and/or arranges for required training for his employees.  The appellant does not make decisions on training that is non-routine, costly, or controversial.

Responsibility 12 is not credited.  It involves determining whether contractor performed work subject to control by the supervisor meets standards of adequacy necessary for authorization of payment.  There are no contractor personnel in the appellant’s division.

Responsibility 13 is not credited.  It involves approving expenses comparable to within-grade increases, extensive overtime, and employee travel.  The appellant exercises the authority to approve expenses like within-grade increases, but the organization does not routinely require the use of extensive overtime and the supervisor of the Food Safety Division approves employee travel.

Responsibility 14 is credited.  It involves recommending awards or bonuses for nonsupervisory personnel and changes in position classification, subject to approval by higher level officials, supervisors, or others.  The appellant has the authority to recommend cash awards or bonuses for personnel, and has recommended changes in position classification for his subordinate positions, subject to approval by his supervisor.

Responsibility 15 is not credited.  It involves finding and implementing ways to eliminate or reduce significant bottlenecks and barriers to production, promote team building, or improve business practices, e.g. a large production or processing unit.  This would apply to large organizations whose missions would be susceptible to the application of such methodological or structural improvements.  The work supervised by the appellant does not lend itself to these types of management applications.  The appellant’s authority in this area would not exceed that described in responsibility 9 of Level 3-2c.

The appellant’s position exercises all ten of the delegated supervisory authorities and responsibilities described at Level 3-2c of this factor, but only three of the listed responsibilities under Level 3-3b.  Therefore, the appellant’s position does not meet Factor 3-3a or 3-3b.

This factor is evaluated at Level 3-2 and 450 points are assigned.

Summary evaluation of supervisory duties

By application of the GSSG, we have evaluated the appellant’s supervisory duties as follows:

Factor Level Points
1.  Program scope and effect 1-3 550
2.  Organizational setting 2-2 250
3.  Supervisory and managerial authority exercised 3-2 450
4.  Personal contacts
        Nature of contacts 4A-3 75
        Purpose of contacts 4B-3 100
5.  Difficulty of typical work directed 5-7 930
6.  Other conditions 6-5 1225
Total points 3580

 

The total of 3580 points falls within the GS-13 point range (3155-3600) by reference to the point-to-grade conversion chart in the GSSG.  Therefore, the appellant's supervisory duties are graded at the GS-13 level.

Summary

The appellant’s nonsupervisory, personally performed work is evaluated at the GS-12 level, while his supervisory duties are evaluated at the GS-13 level.  Based on application of mixed-grade principles as stated in the Introduction, section III.J., and Chapter 5 of The Classifier’s Handbook, the final grade of the appellant’s position is GS-13. 

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as Safety and Occupational Health Manager, GS-018-13.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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