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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

[appellant's name]
Industrial Hygienist
GS-690-12
[Appellant’s work organization/location]
Department of the Navy
Industrial Hygienist
GS-690-12
C-0690-12-02

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

06/24/2013


Date

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 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).

Decision sent to:

[Mailing address of appellant’s representative]

[Mailing address of appellant’s servicing human resources office]

 

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Civilian Human Resources)

1000 Navy Pentagon

Room 4D548

Washington, DC  20350-1000

 

Director, Workforce Relations and Compensation Division

Department of the Navy

Office of Civilian Human Resources

614 Sicard Street SE, Suite 100

Washington Navy Yard, DC  20374-5072

 

Director, Office of Civilian Human Resources

Department of the Navy

614 Sicard Street SE, Suite 100

Washington Navy Yard, DC  20374-5072

 

Compensation and Classification Program Manager

Office of Civilian Human Resources

Department of the Navy

614 Sicard Street S.E., Suite 100

Washington Navy Yard, DC  20374-5072

 

Chief, Classification Appeals Adjudication Section

Department of Defense

Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service

4800 Mark Center Drive, Suite 05G21

Alexandria, VA  22311

Introduction

On November 28, 2012, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) San Francisco Oversight, now Agency Compliance and Evaluation San Francisco, accepted a classification appeal filed on behalf of [name of appellant] by his representative.  On January 23, 2013, we received the agency’s complete administrative report.  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Industrial Hygienist, GS-690-12, but he believes his duties and responsibilities warrant upgrading the position to the GS-13 level.  The appellant works in the [appellant’s work organization/location], Department of the Navy (DON).  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112(b) of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.). 

General issues

During our fact-finding the appellant made various statements about the classification review process conducted by his agency.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of his position.  By law, we must make that decision solely by comparing his current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCS) and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Therefore, we have considered the appellant’s statements only insofar as they are relevant to making that comparison.  Because our decision sets aside any previous agency decisions, the classification practices used by the appellant’s agency in classifying his position are not germane to the classification appeal process. 

Position information

Both the appellant and his second level supervisor have certified to the accuracy of the appellant’s official position description (PD) [number].  He is responsible for carrying out several industrial hygiene programs and activities at the installation including confined space entry, respiratory protection and ventilation, asbestos control, sight conservation, personal protective equipment, lead control, and non-ionizing radiation.  He conducts industrial hygiene surveys and investigations to identify, evaluate, and control conditions or hazards that may cause occupational illness or injury to employees performing operations in shore facilities and shipboard.  He recommends engineering controls, administrative controls, and work practices including the use of personal protective equipment.  He reviews standards, guidance, and criteria developed by higher agency level occupational safety and health organizations and commands, including those issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), adapting and supplementing the criteria to local occupational and industrial health instructions, processes and technical work documents.  The appellant may also perform industrial hygiene investigations of illnesses or discomforts caused by exposure of workers to certain environmental conditions. 

As the Navy certified Gas Free Engineer (GFE) at [appellant’s work organization], the appellant provides industrial hygiene and gas free engineering guidance to engineering departments, project managers, general foremen and line supervisors to ensure compliance with occupational safety and health and gas free engineering requirements reflected in work instructions, procedures, engineering documents, and procurement specifications.  He administers and evaluates the overall management of the gas free engineering program to prevent injuries, accidents, loss of life or damage to government property through the control of toxic flammable or hazardous materials in confined or enclosed poorly ventilated spaces.  He serves as the consultant with full technical authority at the installation in all matters regarding gas free engineering, and conducts reviews and audits concerning implementation of the confined space program in all shops/codes.  The appellant also provides atmospheric testing for flammable, toxic, or enriched atmospheres in confined, enclosed, or poorly ventilated spaces, and provides gas free engineering technical guidance to production shops. 

In reaching our classification decision, we have carefully reviewed all information provided by the appellant and his agency including his official PD which we find sufficient for classification purposes and incorporate by reference into this decision.  In addition, to help decide the appeal we conducted separate telephone interviews with the appellant and his second-level supervisor (the first-level supervisory position is currently vacant). 

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has classified the appellant’s position in the Industrial Hygiene Series, GS-690, titling it Industrial Hygienist, and the appellant does not disagree.  We concur with the agency’s title and series determination.  Positions in the GS-690 series must be evaluated by reference to the grading criteria in the PCS for the GS-690 series.  Our application of the grading criteria in the GS-690 PCS is applied below. 

Grade determination

The GS-690 PCS uses the FES format, which employs nine factors.  Under the FES, each factor-level 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 the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.  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 PCS. 

The appellant disagrees with his agency’s assignment of Factor Levels 1-7 and 8-2.  After careful review, we concur with the agency’s assignment of Factor Levels 2-4, 3-4, 5-4, 6-3, 7-3, and 9-2, and thus have not specifically addressed them in our discussion that follows.  Therefore, our evaluation is limited to those factors in dispute including our assessment of Factor 4, Complexity, in which we disagree with the agency’s evaluation. 

Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts an employee must understand to do acceptable work (e.g., steps, procedures, practices, rules, policies, theories, principles, and concepts) and the nature and extent of the skills necessary to apply that knowledge.

At Level 1-7, the position requires professional knowledge and skills applicable to the performance of industrial hygiene duties related to a wide range of industrial settings; or, an intensive knowledge of a specialty area of industrial hygiene (chemical aspects, etc.).  Examples of assignments representing this level of knowledge are:  (1) skill in identifying, evaluating, and controlling a wide variety of occupational health hazards associated with the entire range of industrial work operations; (2) skill in modifying approaches or applications within a specialty area to such difficult problems as sampling method development, high temperature exhaust ventilation control, and establishing personal protective equipment requirements; (3) or a knowledge of the full range of sampling techniques and control measures, as well as a knowledge of administrative and managerial principles and procedures, to plan, implement, and evaluate an industrial hygiene program covering occupational health hazards found in all but the most complex industrial environments. 

A work illustration of Level 1-7 in the PCS describes a position that applies knowledge and skills to conduct surveys and evaluate health hazards in large and complex industrial operations.  These include heavy industry such as large foundries, steel mills, or shipyards, which are characterized by some or all of the following:  (1) technically complex and diverse work processes and frequent changes in operations; (2) the introduction of new or exotic materials; (3) labor relations problems, and difficult engineering and/or economic feasibility considerations in the control of hazards. 

Another work illustration of Level 1-7 in the PCS describes a position applying knowledge of the full range of industrial hygiene sampling techniques and control measures.  The position applies knowledge of administrative practices necessary to manage an industrial hygiene program covering light to moderately complex industrial operations, such as industrial shops, laboratories using some hazardous materials, supply depots, warehouses where hazardous material is stored or transported, building construction, and similar environments.  The illustrative position directs or performs such functions as planning and initiating surveys or work operations, processes and materials to detect potentially hazardous conditions.  The employee determines the location and number of sampling points, equipment requirements, and methods and techniques of data analysis, and prescribes control measures and designates areas requiring control.  The employee may establish requirements for protective clothing, and adapts guides and searches the technical literature when usual problems are encountered.  The employee may also review plans for modifications to facilities to ensure that proper engineering controls have been provided for potential health hazards, including adapting existing equipment or recommending the purchase of new instruments. 

At Level 1-8, the industrial hygienist exercises mastery of the professional concepts, principles, and practices of industrial hygiene that would enable the employee to apply experienced judgment and knowledge of new developments to solve novel or obscure problems.  At this level, the industrial hygienist extends and modifies existing techniques and develops new approaches which may be used by other industrial hygienists in solving a variety of occupational health problems.  Typically, the employee is recognized by the agency as being an expert in the broad practice of industrial hygiene or in a major specialization, such as chemical, toxicological, or engineering aspects.  Employees at Level 1-8 may also apply the knowledge and skill necessary to serve as an agency expert and to make decisions or recommendations that significantly affect the context, interpretation or development of agency policies or programs concerning critical industrial hygiene matters. 

A work illustration of Level 1-8 in the PCS describes a position that applies knowledge and skills sufficient to serve as a recognized expert for the agency in industrial hygiene, having responsibility for developing policy and program objectives, appraising programs, and providing consultative services to management and technical personnel on a wide variety of occupational health problems. 

Another work illustration of Level 1-8 in the PCS describes a position that applies expert knowledge of industrial hygiene and of administrative practices necessary to manage a comprehensive industrial hygiene program for a major facility or region when the program covers large, complex industrial operations.  Alternately, the program covers experimental work involving a wide variety of new chemical agents, or hazardous chemical, bacteriological, or radiological agents in undeveloped or critical stages.  As stated in the illustration, positions at Level 1-8 may direct or perform a variety of functions, such as (1) developing instructions and control procedures covering complex potential health hazards; (2) reviewing plans for new or modified processes and facilities when criteria must be justified based on long term or intangible health benefits or when preventive measures may be considered unjustifiable based solely on an analysis of cost effectiveness; (3) providing expert advice and consultation to management officials on industrial hygiene matters including justifying operating budgets and requirements for staff, facilities, and equipment; (4) evaluating program accomplishments, analyzing reports, and determining exposure trends, and initiating surveys of potential health hazards and work processes or operations; (5) directing a training program in industrial hygiene, and assuring program integration with other departments of the activity, higher organizational echelons, and other Federal, State, and local agencies and health officials. 

The appellant’s position meets Level 1-7.  Like this level, he applies professional knowledge and skill in performing industrial hygiene duties covering a wide range of industrial settings including a variety of industrial shops dedicated to ship repair, and also serves as a board certified GFE specializing in the detection of various hazardous gases in large confined spaces (ranging in size from 15 to 1,000 cubic feet) such as fuel, sanitary and bilge tanks.  Comparable to Level 1-7, the appellant is skilled in identifying, evaluating, and controlling a wide variety of occupational health hazards associated with a broad range of industrial work operations performed at [appellant’s work organization] both shipboard and onshore including detection and mitigation of asbestos, silica, chlorine, benzene, Freon gas, alcohol, lead, non-ionizing radiation, vitreous fibers, molds, toxic sludge in storm or surge drains, etc. 

Similar to Level 1-7, in performing his GFE duties he modifies approaches and applications described in engineering documents reviewed and, based on mathematical and scientific calculations, specifies particular sampling methods prescribing the proper equipment, procedures, and duration to decontaminate and ventilate confined spaces so repair work can be safely accomplished.  In doing so he establishes personal protective equipment needed by repair personnel including clothing, respirators, gloves, face shields, and safety glasses.  Like Level 1-7, in carrying out his work the appellant applies knowledge of the full range of industrial hygiene sampling techniques and control measures.  Similar to Level 1-7, as the gas free engineering program manager he also applies knowledge of administrative and managerial principles to plan, implement and annually evaluate the program for compliance with governing Navy and OSHA requirements, and assesses the scope and nature of overall occupational health industrial hygiene hazards found at the installation. 

The appellant’s duties favorably compare to the work illustrations listed under Level 1-7 in the PCS.  Like the first illustration, he conducts surveys to evaluate health hazards in a large industrial shipyard which carries out technically complex and diverse repair processes on nuclear powered Navy submarines and conventional surface ships of all types.  Given the required two to six week maintenance/repair turnaround period for ships at sea, he faces frequent changes in operations due to required timeframes for redeployment of vessels which directly impacts the frequency and pace of his industrial hygiene and gas free engineering duties.  Similar to the second work illustration, the appellant applies knowledge of the full range of industrial hygiene sampling techniques and control measures, as well as knowledge of administrative practices to manage the gas free engineering program at the shipyard covering moderately complex industrial operations including a variety of industrial shops.  In performing his industrial hygiene and GFE duties he plans and conducts surveys to detect potentially hazardous conditions, and determines sampling points and equipment requirements.  He identifies methods needed to collect data, and prescribes control measures including requirements for protective clothing and equipment.  Like the illustration, he reviews and modifies engineering plans to ensure proper controls are in place to handle environmental health hazards, particularly in confined spaces.

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 1-8.  Although he applies extensive knowledge of the principles and practices of industrial hygiene, the appellant is not confronted with novel or obscure problems at the shipyard requiring significantly extending and modifying existing techniques, and developing new approaches to be used by other industrial hygienists.  The record shows he carries out surveys, inspections, and gas free engineering tasks for which he may have to adapt or modify methods to some degree, but his duties do not require he develop new approaches to solve occupational health problems.  In contrast to Level 1-8 and its illustrative work examples, he is not recognized Navy-wide as an expert in the broad practice of industrial hygiene nor in a major specialization of that field.  Although locally he is the primary gas free engineering resource at the shipyard, as opposed to Level 1-8 he does not serve as an agency expert making decisions or recommendations that significantly affect the context, interpretation, or development of Navy-wide industrial hygiene policies or programs regarding critical matters.  Such responsibilities are found at higher NAVSEA command and DON headquarters levels.  In addition, responsibility for comprehensively managing the shipyard’s industrial hygiene program lies with the shipyard’s manager of the Occupational Safety and Health Division. 

This factor is evaluated at Level 1-7 and 1250 points are credited. 

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 the full spectrum of occupational health hazards found in all but the most complex industrial environments.  Thus, the assigned work activities involve a substantial amount and variety of exposure to chemical, physical, bacteriological and/or radiological hazards.  The employee must recognize hazards which are uncommon, evaluate a variety of data, and institute or recommend effective control measures to protect the workers.  Factors to be considered include unusual work processes or operations, exotic chemicals for which toxicological information may be incomplete, and the need to adapt or modify precedent methods in the control of hazardous exposures. 

At Level 4-5, work includes a broad range of activities and involves the identification and treatment of novel or obscure problems requiring the employee to be versatile and innovative in adapting and modifying precedents, methods and techniques.  Assignments are characterized by many different considerations due to breadth, diversity, or intensity of occupational health problems encountered.  Examples of factors to be considered include:  (1) major areas of uncertainty resulting from complicated work processes, such as highly complex research and developmental work; (2) the need to develop new methodologies for the evaluation and control of a particular health hazard where relevant literature is inadequate or non-existent; (3) serious conflicts between industrial hygiene and management considerations; (4) health effects from long-term, chronic exposures are unknown or poorly defined; or (5) exposures are complicated by mixtures of toxic and/or physical hazards.  Work often includes originating new techniques and developing new information for use by other occupational health personnel. 

The appellant’s position meets Level 4-4.  Like this level, his assignments cover the full spectrum of occupational health hazards covering all but the most complex industrial environments.  His duties involve a variety of exposures to chemicals (e.g., benzene, alcohol, chloride), physical hazards, bacteriological risks (e.g., sludge and waste in sanitary and bilge tanks), and radiological spills in ship compartments.  Like Level 4-4, in performing gas free engineering duties the appellant must recognize hazards which are uncommon, and evaluate sampling data to prescribe effective control measures including protective gear and equipment to safeguard workers.  In carrying out these duties he must consider unusual work processes or operations (e.g., welding near tanks containing highly flammable material and gases), thus requiring he adapt standard methods to control or eliminate hazardous exposures. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 4-5 which the agency assigned.  Unlike this level, he is not confronted with identifying and treating novel or obscure problems requiring versatility and innovation in adapting and modifying precedents, methods and techniques.  Although some of his gas free engineering tasks include extensive calculations and unusual work processes, in contrast to Level 4-5 his assignments are not characterized by many difficult considerations due to the breadth and diversity of the occupational health problem encountered.  Unlike Level 4-5, none of his industrial hygiene assignments encompass the complexity of factors described in the examples listed under that level.  Thus he is not faced with major areas of uncertainty typical of a highly complex research and development work environment.  He is not confronted with health hazards where relevant technical literature is inadequate or non-existent requiring development of new methodologies for evaluation and control, and does not deal with serious conflicts between industrial hygiene and management considerations.  As opposed to Level 4-5, the health hazards the appellant addresses do not encompass health effects from long-term, chronic exposures which are unknown or poorly defined, and hazardous exposures are not complicated by mixtures of toxic and/or physical risks.  The record shows the appellant’s work does not include originating new techniques and developing new information for use by other occupational health personnel. 

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

Factor 8, Physical demands

This factor covers the requirements and physical demands placed on the employee by the work assignment. 

At Level 8-2, the work includes frequent inspections or surveys of industrial workplaces, requiring the employee to carry a considerable amount of equipment, and involves a good deal of walking, standing, bending, and climbing.

At Level 8-3, the work requires frequent and protracted periods of strenuous physical exertion, such as long periods of climbing, crouching, or crawling in confined spaces or around and between operating equipment while carrying moderately heavy equipment (20-30 pounds or more) and while wearing protective clothing. 

The appellant’s position meets Level 8-3.  Like this level, his inspection, survey, and gas free engineering duties require frequent and protracted periods of strenuous physical exertion including long periods of climbing, crouching, or crawling in confined spaces such as large shipboard tanks, voids, drainage systems, etc.  He is regularly confronted with strenuous physical challenges including entering large fuel, sanitary, or bilge tanks through ships’ hatches measuring 14 inches in diameter, and climbs into and out of tanks via slippery, contaminated interior ladders.  While onboard ships and in tanks he must also manipulate between operating equipment while carrying moderately heavy items in a backpack containing safety equipment, tools, pumps, and various air quality and noise surge meters totaling about 20 pounds in weight.  In performing his inspection and survey duties while carrying equipment he regularly wears protective clothing such as an impermeable tank suit, coveralls, steel toe shoes, and gloves. 

This factor is evaluated at Level 8-3 and 50 points are credited.

Summary of FES factors

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 8-3 50
9.  Work Environment 9-2 20
Total 2850

 

A total of 2850 points falls within the GS-12 range (2755-3150) on the Grade Conversion Table in the GS-690 PCS.  Therefore, the appellant’s duties are graded at the GS-12 level. 

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as Industrial Hygienist, GS-690-12. 

 

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