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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

Dean W. Myers
Industrial Hygienist
Occupational Safety and Health Branch
Standards and Compliance Division
Assistant Director, Mission Support
Facilities Services Directorate
Washington Headquarters Services
Department of Defense
Arlington, Virginia
Industrial Hygienist,

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



As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, this decision constitutes a certificate that 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 the conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

Since this decision lowers the grade of the appealed position, it is to be effective no later than the beginning of the sixth pay period after the date of this decision, as permitted by 5 CFR 511.702.  The applicable provisions of parts 351, 432, 536, and 752 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, must be followed in implementing this decision.  If the appellant is entitled to grade retention, the two-year retention period begins on the date this decision is implemented.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the corrected position description and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted within 30 days from the effective date of the personnel action to the OPM office which accepted the appeal. 


The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Merit System Accountability and Compliance accepted this position classification appeal on September 17, 2013.  The appellant occupies the position of Industrial Hygienist, GS-690-13, in the Occupational Safety and Health Branch (OSHB) of the Standards and Compliance Division, Assistant Director for Mission Support,  Facilities Services Directorate, Washington Headquarters Services (WHS), Department of Defense (DoD), in Arlington, Virginia.  He requests reclassification of his position as Industrial Hygienist, GS-690-14.  We accepted and decided this appeal under the provisions of section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

Position information

The WHS occupational safety and health program provides comprehensive safety and health support for the WHS-serviced organizations in the Pentagon Reservation (approximately 8000 employees in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and certain DoD components), including the approximately 250 high-risk Federal Wage System employees working in the Pentagon’s seven shop areas (related to electrical, structural, mechanical, generator, heating/refrigeration, and fire services, redundant utilities, and renovations).  It also provides more limited physical safety support for other tenant organizations in the Pentagon and for DoD-occupied, General Services Administration-controlled (i.e., leased) administrative space in the National Capital Region (approximately 60,000 employees) by establishing procedures to assist these components in identifying and abating hazardous building-related issues, such as indoor air quality, mold, and roof leaks.  The program establishes and publishes procedures for identifying and abating hazardous conditions; ensures that all serviced personnel are aware of available safety, occupational health, industrial hygiene, medical treatment, and surveillance services; performs injury and trend analysis; and develops a coordinated safety and industrial hygiene workplace monitoring program to ensure that all potentially hazardous workplaces are identified and evaluated.

The appellant is designated as the primary implementation coordinator for WHS pursuit of certification under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).  VPP certification is designed to recognize and promote effective worksite-based safety and health management systems.  It sets performance-based criteria for managed safety and health systems, invites sites to apply, and assesses applicants against these criteria.  To qualify for VPP certification, the employer must operate a comprehensive safety and health management system including the following four essential elements aimed at reducing the incidence and severity of illness and injury:  management leadership and employee involvement; worksite analysis; hazard prevention and control; and safety and health training.

Within this context, the appellant coordinates the activities of a VPP implementation team comprised of four contractor employees who also serve as embedded safety representatives in the Pentagon shop areas.  He chairs weekly progress meetings to ensure alignment of resources with program goals and objectives.  He reviews and updates assigned WHS safety and occupational health operating procedures to address regulatory compliance and risk management best practices as articulated in OSHB on-line "policy chapters."  (The appellant had primary authorship for the chapters on office safety, ergonomics, personal protective equipment, emergency action plan, employee reports of unsafe/unhealthful working conditions, WHS inspections and management assessment programs, training plan, and bloodborne pathogens.)  He implements these procedures by developing classroom and on-line training modules to communicate identified control strategies to employees, organizes and manages the training process, delivers the training or monitors its delivery by the contractor employees, and conducts related briefings for higher-level management.  He completed a training needs assessment for all serviced WG and GS staff by conducting ongoing, job-specific hazard analyses which are subsequently used to identify hazard-specific training needs by job title.  For example, he coordinated the VPP Implementation Team's development of an electrical safety training program for non-electricians and a model contractor safety program, including a video orientation program for contractor personnel.  He reviews contractor reports of inspections, accident investigations, and mishap and near-miss data, analyzes trends and develops the programmatic response such as additional training, and presents findings to management. He also investigates OSHA complaints and prepares written responses to OSHA on his findings and conclusions.

The appellant provides consultative occupational safety and health services addressing a broad range of personnel concerns regarding activities occurring on the Pentagon Reservation.  For example, he monitors Pentagon Helioport operations to ensure adherence to flight plans.  He provided risk assessment expertise for noise exposure during CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives) exercises.  He supported special events such as Rolling Thunder, the Army Ten-Miler, the Marine Corps Marathon, and screening for the Presidential Inauguration by monitoring their adherence to permit application safety provisions for activities occurring on the Pentagon Reservation.  He developed risk mitigation procedures for developing hazards, such as stage fall protection, special purpose vehicle operations, and fixed ladder fall risks.

The appellant serves as the WHS representative to the DoD Safety and Occupational Health Committee (SOHC), which is the DoD body responsible for drafting and updating DoD policy (in the form of DoD Instructions and Administrative Instructions) to address developing issues, new exposures, etc., by attending SOHC meetings, briefing division management on committee proposals and initiatives, and recommending and drafting the WHS position in the form of comments on these proposals as appropriate.  He also serves as the WHS representative on several DoD-level safety committees and working groups, including the VPP Working Group, Electrical Safety Working Group, and the Defense Safety Oversight Council (DSOC) Integration Group.

The appellant also reported that he performs occasional risk assessments of new chemical products proposed for use to assess their toxicological significance, exposure potential, and environmental impacts, determines whether they are acceptable for use, and recommends risk reduction strategies.

While the adjudication of this appeal was in progress, the appellant accrued additional duties as a result of a realignment of work within OSHB.  Specifically, the appellant assumed responsibility for the review of all industrial hygiene and safety assessment technical reports prepared by the industrial hygiene contractors or occasionally by other branch staff relative to exposure sampling (e.g., noise, chemical, or dust exposures), environmental investigations, tenant complaints, etc.  The appellant reported the branch has issued over 400 such reports to date for calendar year 2014.  The appellant's position description (PD) was redescribed to include these new duties and the resultant PD (#M388A) is considered accurate and adequate for classification purposes in terms of the major duties described.  However, we note that the factor level descriptions are overstated in their depiction of the appellant's industrial hygiene program responsibilities and do not accurately represent the actual work environment as it relates to the difficulty and complexity of the WHS occupational safety and health program.   

Series and title determination

The appellant does not contest the series or title of his position, which was classified by the agency as Industrial Hygienist, GS-690.  This series is concerned with potential health hazards associated primarily with chemical, biological, and physical agents, and requires a fundamental grounding in the basic sciences.  By contrast, the Safety Management Series, GS-018, is concerned with the elimination or control of physical conditions, operating practices, or other factors which may result in injury or damage, and requires knowledge of the principles, standards, and techniques of safety management.  Thus, safety management focuses primarily on workplace physical hazards whereas industrial hygiene focuses primarily on the prevention of occupational illness or disease.  However, the Position Classification Standard (PCS) for the GS-690 series notes that some overlap occurs between these occupations; e.g., either might conduct evaluations of stresses involving ergonomic factors or observe safety hazards and suggest corrective measures.  In addition, both the GS-690 PCS and the GS-018 PCS address such duties as advising on control measures for hazardous chemical or radiological agents.  Although the GS-018 series does not require the professional qualifications of the GS-690 series, it does require knowledge of “pertinent elements of engineering, physical science, ergonomics, psychology, industrial hygiene, physiology, sociology, and other scientific and technological fields which contribute to the achievement of comprehensive safety and occupational health objectives.”

Guidance provided in The Classifier's Handbook on distinguishing between professional and non-professional positions (in this case, the professional GS-690 series and the non-professional GS-018 series) states:  "Positions can be considered professional only if the work requires application of professional knowledge and ability.  Neither the desirability of such qualifications nor the employee's possession of them is a factor in determining the series."  The Handbook further advises that "[w]henever there is a question of whether to classify a position in a professional or nonprofessional series, you must consider the following points that are common to all professional positions":

  • the work requires application of professional knowledge and skills;
  • management has decided that the work is to be performed following accepted professional methods and practices; and
  • the employee in the position meets the professional qualification requirements for the occupation.

The appellant reported that he spends approximately five percent of his time on the personal performance of work he considers industrial hygiene-related; i.e., performing risk assessments of new chemical products proposed for use on the premises to assess their toxicological significance, exposure potential, and environmental impacts, determine whether they are acceptable for use, and recommend risk reduction strategies.  However, this duty is neither included in his performance standards, nor was it addressed by his supervisor in his performance evaluation. Further, the appellant acknowledged that the industrial hygiene aspects of his work are “relatively mundane,” relating primarily to noise exposure.  Other industrial-hygiene related work performed by the appellant relates exclusively to reviewing technical reports prepared by the industrial hygiene contractors on the results of exposure tests conducted or safety assessments carried out.  The appellant reported that he spends approximately ten percent of his time reviewing these reports.  This work may arguably require professional industrial hygiene qualifications in order to ensure that the methodology used and the conclusions reached are appropriate, and the appellant meets the qualifications for the GS-690 series.  Therefore, the appellant’s position is classified to the GS-690 series on the basis of performance of this work, although the occasions on which he actually exercises these qualifications are limited, and some of the work he performs that may be considered covered by the GS-690 series could be equally regarded as included in the work typically performed by GS-018 employees.  The authorized title for nonsupervisory positions in the GS-690 series is Industrial Hygienist. 

Grade determination

The agency evaluated the appellant's position by reference to the GS-690 PCS.  However, because the majority of the appellant's work (i.e., at least 85 percent) is directly associated with the GS-018 series, this PCS provides more directly applicable grade level criteria.  The GS-018 standard is written in the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are to be assigned for each of the following nine factors, with the total then being converted to a grade level by use of the grade conversion table provided in the standard.  The factor point values mark the lower end of the ranges for the indicated factor levels.  For a position to warrant a given point value, it must be fully equivalent to the overall intent of the selected factor-level description.  If the position fails in any significant aspect to meet a particular factor-level description, the point value for the next lower factor level must be assigned, unless the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.

The PCS also contains benchmark descriptions which illustrate typical positions within the occupation and their associated factor level assignments.  These are referenced below as appropriate. 

Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts that the safety and occupational health specialist 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 specialist related to the performance of assignments which taken as a whole, represent a component of a safety and occupational health program.

At Level 1-7, the work requires 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 (e.g., identifying, evaluating, and controlling a wide variety of industrial hazards related to the full range of work operations.)  The standard provides the following illustration of Level 1-7 knowledge requirements:

  • Knowledge of safety and occupational health principles, practices, standards and abatement measures related to diverse industrial settings sufficient to apply a wide range of methods and techniques in the inspection of private and  Government-owned plants, factories, foundries, and shipyards and to determine compliance with applicable regulatory provisions.

The knowledge required by the appellant’s position is consistent with Level 1-7.  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 WHS program.

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, work at this level may require 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 standard provides the following illustrations of Level 1-8 work:

  • Knowledge sufficient to manage a ballistic research laboratory safety program involving the evaluation of high safety risk activities such as the development of  rockets, missiles, propellants, lasers and the dynamic testing of experimental materials, advise laboratory program officials of potential hazards and recommend control measures devised through extension of present guidelines or analysis of new safety procedures. 
  • Knowledge of analytical techniques, including hazard, fault tree and management oversight 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.
  • Knowledge sufficient to serve as a service safety and occupational health manager in a worldwide      setting for military explosives and hazardous materials (munition, chemical, and radiological substances), develop and apply safety policies, controlling their use, storage, handling, and transportation, and      authorize exemption from critical explosive requirements.
  • Knowledge sufficient to manage the safety and occupational health program of a major industrial      operation requiring the development and application of technical standards and controlling requirements for the use of large mobile cranes, steam and diesel locomotives, long shoring work involving cargo vessels, and aircraft maintenance practices and advise top management on methods and procedures controlling the introduction of new equipment and toxic and radiological materials.
  • Knowledge of safety and occupational health concepts, principles, practices and procedures, body of laws, regulations, and precedent decisions that enable the safety and occupational health manager 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 1-8 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 safety and health situations.  Thus, a safety and occupational health specialist working in a non-industrial setting who encounters only the routine physical and environmental hazards occurring in office buildings 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 occupational safety and health services to a broad range of administrative settings, but stated that the majority of his work relates to the Pentagon shop areas.  However, these areas present the common and recurring hazards associated with the conventional trade-related work processes covered by Level 1-7 (i.e., encountered in plants, factories, foundries, and shipyards) rather than the more unpredictable, unprecedented, and high safety risk activities contemplated at Level 1-8.  The types of safety and health hazards that arise within WHS are addressed in the on-line OSHB "policy chapters" which include such non-industrial topics as office safety, fall protection, and ergonomics, and such common shop-related concerns as respiratory protection, noise abatement, heat and cold stress, overhead hoist and crane safety, tool and machine safety, and self-propelled vehicle safety.  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.  Further, his work setting limits the opportunity to “recommend substantive program changes” or “the extension and modification of existing safety and occupational health management techniques critical to the resolution of safety and occupational health management problems.”  The WHS does not encompass the types of dynamic industrial or research environments as described in the Level 1-8 illustrations that would produce new or evolving hazards requiring these types of major occupational safety and health program responses.  Although the appellant believes his position warrants a higher grade because of what he characterizes as the breadth of the work, the number of buildings and occupants supported does not in itself affect the grade of the position, which is dependent on the nature and extent of technical knowledge required as addressed under this factor. 

Alternatively, 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., generally 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 associated with agency-level or equivalent positions with the supporting subordinate organizational structure.  WHS is not an “agency;” it is a support organization for a group of agency components.  Within the context of the appellant’s position, DoD or any of its major service components (i.e., the Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Defense Logistics Agency, etc.)  would be considered “agencies.”  WHS is equivalent to a DoD field-level activity in that it has no subordinate organizational levels and its mission is to provide support directly to a serviced population rather than to instruct lower-level technical staff on the conduct of their occupational safety and health program activities.  Therefore, the appellant neither serves as a technical authority nor does the WHS provide an organizational structure to support the exercise of this authority.  Although providing support services to a higher-level clientele presents certain challenges, it does not increase the actual knowledge requirements or authority level of the work.  For example, although the appellant prepares the WHS comments on DoD occupational safety and health directives, this may not be credited at Level 1-8 because he does not have technical authority over the ultimate content of the issuances.

Level 1-7 is credited (1250 points).

Factor 2, Supervisory controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the responsibility of the safety and occupational health specialist, 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.

The supervisory controls under which the appellant works are accurately represented at Level2-4, which describes work carried out with a high degree of independence and recognized expertise in the occupational field to coordinate with others, determine the actions necessary, and resolve technical problems.

Level 2-5 is not met.  At this level, 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.

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. As such, this level is generally reserved for positions functioning as program managers.  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 entire WHS occupational safety and health program and thus is not a program manager.  Although he works independently, he works on assigned tasks and continuing responsibilities within established program parameters rather than defining his own “areas of endeavor.” He is subject to technical supervision by the OSHB chief rather than the “broad administrative and policy direction” that would be exercised over an employee whose responsibility encompasses managing a program and who reports to a general administrative or facilities manager rather than to an occupational safety and health manager.  The appellant does not manage a program or make major program recommendations and thus does not exercise the degree of responsibility, authority, and technical leadership upon which Level 2-5 is predicated.

Level 2-4 is credited (450 points).

Factor 3, Guidelines

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

At Level 3-3, available guidelines include public laws and Executive Orders, State and municipal codes, OSHA standards, agency manuals, procurement contract clauses, safety council reports, national safety association publications, and manufacturing association criteria.  The work requires independent interpretation, evaluation, selection, and application of guidelines to specific situations including modifications and adaptations when necessary.  In addition, judgment frequently must be exercised in applying standard hazard control or elimination practices to different situations. 

The guidelines available to the appellant and his application of them meet Level 3-3.  These include national standards from OSHA, the 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 and applying what he described as recognized "best practices" to situations not directly covered by OSHA standards.  The types of hazards encountered in WHS work settings are those commonly found in offices and shops and can be eliminated or mitigated through the application of accepted practices.

Level 3-4 is not met, where 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 specialist 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.  As an example of Level 3-4 guidelines development, the PCS provides a benchmark (GS-018-12, BMK #3) where "the hazards identified are the results of new, unconventional work processes involving the production of explosives and special machining techniques for exotic materials, where precedent control measures are only partially applicable."

The key consideration of Level 3-4 is whether the work situation presents hazards that are so complex or unusual that they are not fully covered by available agency or other guidelines, and where the employee thus must develop the safety standards and practices to be adopted.  The OSHB "policy chapters" developed by the appellant included such topics as office safety, ergonomics, personal protective equipment, emergency action plan, employee reports of unsafe/unhealthful working conditions, WHS inspections and management assessment programs, training plan, and bloodborne pathogens, many of which are administrative in nature and all of which could be derived from available agency or other guidelines.  None of them represent procedures for handling highly complex or unusual hazards.  The technical reports reviewed by the appellant include the usual safety risks expected to be encountered in office or shop settings, and the appellant provided no documentation indicating his involvement in developing safety standards or practices covering particularly complex or unusual hazards.  Although the appellant serves as WHS representative to the SOHC, his role is limited to providing comments on new policy issuances and program initiatives, and he stated that many of these relate to field activities rather than WHS and he thus has minimal technical input. 

Level 3-3 is credited (275 points).

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.

The complexity of the appellant’s work is consistent with Level 4-4.  His assignments cover a wide range of work operations including office and shop environments involving diverse hazards.  The appellant evaluates interrelated physical conditions, operating practices, human-machine interaction, and accident investigations. 

The PCS describes several benchmarks where Level 4-4 is assigned to such work situations as a military installation including the operation of a steam plant, machine and sheet metal shops, handling and storage of liquid oxygen and other hazardous materials, and performance of aircraft and vehicle work (GS-018-11, BMK #1); a military installation engaged in printing and warehousing activities, transportation of materials, and machine shop operations (GS-018-11, BMK #5); and a military installation responsible for ground aviation and industrial activities and including runways, aircraft parking areas, hangars, a fuel storage facility, piers, maintenance shops, warehouses, and food service facilities (GS-018-12, BMK #5).  The various work situations encompassed by the appellant's position and the level of complexity inherent in those work situations, such as the Pentagon shops and Helioport, are fully covered by and comparable to these benchmarks.

Level 4-5 is not met.  At this level, the work includes broad and diverse assignments requiring innovative analysis of high safety risk activities.  The employee 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.

Unlike Level 4-5, the appellant’s work does not require weighing, considering, and evaluating high risks in a field with constantly changing hazards.  Although the Pentagon shop areas may present high safety risks, these hazards are relatively 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 he does not work in an industrial setting where these types of conflicts would be most likely to arise.  It does not involve evaluating 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 dispersion of operations.  Although WHS services a large volume of leased administrative space throughout the National Capital Region, this service is limited to building-related hazards such as indoor air quality or mold.  Further, WHS 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.

The benchmarks where Level 4-5 is assigned include such work situations as a military installation responsible for explosive, missile, and range safety (GS-018-11, BMK #4); a district office of a defense agency conducting surveys of heavy industrial plants producing ammunition, explosives, and toxic materials (GS-018-12, BMK #3); and a military department engaged in the maintenance of dams and reservoirs, levees, flood walls, and pumping stations, channel improvements, and the construction of military facilities and including such operations as major floating plants, hydroelectric power plants, sewage and water treatment plants, and a repair base for barges, towboats, and heavy construction equipment.  The appellant's work situation does not include high safety risk environments and the associated complexity comparable to those described in these benchmarks. 

Level 4-4 is credited (225 points).

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.

At Level 5-4, the purpose of the work is to assess the effectiveness of specific programs, projects, or functions.  The employee 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.

The scope and effect of the appellant’s position are comparable to Level 5-4.  The appellant is responsible for applying methods, techniques, and abatements to control or eliminate unsafe practices or conditions for a broad range of activities within WHS.  As at Level 5-4, he assesses the adequacy of existing safety and occupational health safeguards and works closely with managers, supervisors, and employees throughout WHS in identifying hazardous conditions and developing and promoting safety and abatement measures.  His work efforts result in eliminating or reducing unsafe practices and conditions and affect a wide range of safety and occupational health activities within WHS and its serviced organizations.

Level 5-5 is not met.  At this level, 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 employee 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.

Level 5-5 describes a broader program (for example, policy level) than the WHS occupational safety and health 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 local use based on OSHA standards and best practices.  He does not provide expert advice and guidance to or oversee the activities of other safety and occupational health specialists or managers as required at Level 5-5, for example, at the agency or departmental level or at a regulatory agency responsible for issuing standards and instructions.  His work efforts result in minimizing unsafe practices and conditions within the serviced organizations but do not affect the program activities of other safety and occupational health mangers and specialists both within and outside the agency (i.e., outside DoD).

Level 5-4 is credited (225 points). 

Factor 6, Personal Contacts

Personal contacts include face-to-face and telephone contacts with persons not in the supervisory chain.

At Level 6-3, personal contacts of a nonroutine nature are with a variety of individuals (e.g., managers, administrative law and Federal judges, and professionals from other agencies or outside organizations).  Contacts also include individuals such as managerial representatives of privately owned businesses, contractors and consultants, university professors, State and local government officials, representatives of professional societies and national safety associations, safety engineers, and safety and occupational health specialists from private establishments.

The appellant’s contacts meet Level 6-3.  As at this level, he has regular contact with managers and other employees within WHS, contractors, and counterparts at the Department level and other DoD agencies. 

Level 6-4 is not met, where personal contacts are with high-ranking officials from outside the agency such as key public and corporate executives; elected representatives; and top scientific personnel of other departments and agencies, State, county, and municipal governments, private industry, national safety and health organizations, public groups, and national research organizations.  Safety and occupational health specialists at this level may participate as technical experts on committees and seminars of national and international stature.

Unlike Level 6-4, the appellant does not engage in regular and recurring contacts with high- ranking officials from outside the agency, such as key public and corporate executives, elected representatives, and top scientific personnel of other departments and agencies.  Further, the appellant does not participate as a technical expert (in contrast to participating as an attendee or representative) on committees, in conferences, and in seminars of national and international stature as would be found at Level 6-4.

Level 6-3 is credited (60 points).

Factor 7, Purpose of Contacts

This factor covers the purpose of personal contacts, which ranges from factual exchanges of information to situations involving significant or controversial issues and different viewpoints, goals, or objectives.

At Level 7-3, the purpose of contacts is to influence, motivate, and encourage unwilling, skeptical and often uncooperative individuals to adopt or comply with safety and occupational health standards, practices, procedures, or contractual agreements.  For example, contacts are established to (1) persuade and negotiate agreements involving agency managers or private- sector executives where there are serious technical disagreements and complex employee-management relations or (2) justify changes in operational programs to agency managers.  This level also includes deposing, making affidavits, and testifying in a court of law where an opposing attorney may challenge the competence of a safety and occupational health specialist including his/her work methods or findings.  The PCS notes that the majority of field safety and occupational health employees are at this level.

The purpose of the appellant’s contacts meets Level 7-3.  As at this level, the appellant must use persuasive techniques to convince managers and employees to accept safety considerations where following safe working practices represents a change in work habits or conditions. 

Level 7-4 is not met, where the purpose of contacts is to justify, defend, negotiate, or settle highly significant, controversial, and often very sensitive safety and occupational health issues.  At this level, the safety and occupational health manager often represents the agency as a participant in professional conferences, hearings, national safety congresses, or committees to develop, change, or modify safety and occupational health standards and criteria that have a wide application and a major occupational impact.  Typically, persons contacted have diverse viewpoints or opinions concerning a significant safety and occupational health policy, precedent, or objective that require extensive compromise efforts to achieve a mutually satisfactory conclusion. 

Unlike Level 7-4, the appellant’s position does not require him to justify and defend actions in highly controversial situations or to act as the DoD (i.e., the agency) representative in high-level meetings to develop or modify occupational safety and health standards and criteria having a wide application and major occupational impact.  This level is generally reserved for positions of department or agency-level occupational safety and health managers or high-level staff at national regulatory agencies. 

Level 7-3 is credited (120 points).

Factor 8, Physical Demands

This factor covers the requirements and physical demands placed on the employee by the work assignment.  This includes physical characteristics and abilities and the physical exertion involved in the work.

The appellant’s position fully meets Level 8-1, where work is generally sedentary and may require some walking, standing or bending, and carrying of small and light objects.

Level 8-2 is not met.  At this level, the work requires regular and recurring physical exertion related to frequent inspections and surveys requiring considerable standing, walking, climbing, bending, crouching, stretching, reaching or similar movements.  Within WHS, inspections and accident investigations are carried out by contractor staff, and the appellant's occasional site visits do not require extended periods of standing, walking, climbing, bending, or similar movements.

Level 8-1 is credited (5 points).

Factor 9, Work Environment

This factor considers the risks and discomfort in the employee’s physical surroundings or nature of the work assigned and the safety and occupational health regulations required.  Although the use of safety and occupational health precautions can practically eliminate a certain danger or discomfort, such situations typically place additional demands upon the employee in carrying out safety and occupational health regulations and techniques.

As at Level 9-1, the appellant’s work is performed in an office setting with some infrequent exposure to hazards when visiting work sites where special safety precautions are required.  

Level 9-2 is not met, where work involves regular and recurring exposure to hazards, unpleasantness, and discomforts such as moving machine parts, shielded radiation sources, irritant chemicals, acid fumes, physical stresses, high noise levels, adverse weather conditions, and high temperatures from steam lines.  At this level, protective equipment and clothing may be needed, including hard hat, metatarsal shoes, ear muffs or plugs, goggles, respirators, and gloves.  The appellant’s work does not regularly expose him to the types of hazardous situations described at this level. 

Level 9-1 is credited (5 points).

Factors Level Points
Knowledge Required 1-7 1250
Supervisory Controls 2-4 450
Guidelines 3-3 275
Complexity 4-4 225
Scope and Effect 5-4 225
Personal Contacts 6-3 60
Purpose of Contacts 7-3 120
Physical Demands 8-1 5
Work Evironment 9-1 5
Total 2615


The total of 2615 points falls within the GS-11 range (2355-2750) on the grade conversion table provided in the GS-400 PCS. 

As discussed earlier, the appellant's position is not appropriately evaluated by use of the GS-690 PCS.  The Classifier's Handbook instructs that duties may be considered grade-controlling only if they are performed for at least 25 percent of the employee's time, and the appellant's industrial hygiene duties do not approach this threshold.  However, we note that the GS-690 factor level descriptions largely parallel those in the GS-400 PCS because of the overlaps in the two occupations.  For example, an illustration at Level 1-8 in the GS-690 PCS describes a work situation where "the industrial hygiene program covers large, complex industrial operations; or experimental work involving a wide variety of new chemical agents; or hazardous chemical, bacteriological, or radiological agents in undeveloped or critical stages."  These concepts are reiterated throughout the remaining factor level descriptions, similar to the corresponding factors in the GS-018 PCS.     


The appealed position is properly classified as Industrial Hygienist, GS-690-11.                    



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