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December 02, 2015
Fall 2015 regulatory agenda: OSHA prioritizes silica, recordkeeping updates
By Emily Scace, Senior Editor, Safety

OSHA’s recently released fall 2015 regulatory agenda outlines the status of the agency’s currently pending prerules, proposed rules, and final rules. While most of the items on the fall 2015 list are holdovers from previous regulatory agendas, the Department of Labor (DOL) identified two major rulemaking efforts, both in the final rule stage, as top areas of focus for 2016.

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The first is occupational exposure to crystalline silica, which the Department of Labor (DOL) highlighted as OSHA’s top priority in the preamble to the latest agenda. OSHA is aiming to reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica and create a comprehensive standard that would include requirements for compliance methods, exposure monitoring, training, and medical surveillance. The final rule is projected to be released in February 2016.

The DOL also highlighted improving tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses, also known as the electronic recordkeeping proposal, as a key priority for OSHA in 2016. If implemented, the rule would modify OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping standard at 29 CFR 1904 to require employers to submit certain injury and illness recordkeeping information electronically to OSHA. A final rule is projected to be released in March 2016.

Other significant final rules include:

  • Walking and working surfaces and personal fall protection systems. This rule would address workplace slip, trip, and fall hazards and establish requirements for personal fall protection systems in keeping with current technology and procedures. A final rule is projected for April 2016.
  • Updating OSHA standards based on national consensus standards for eye and face protection. The update would revise eye and face protection regulations to incorporate the 2010 edition of the ANSI Z87.1 consensus standard. A final rule is projected for March 2016.

Proposed rules include:

  • Occupational exposure to beryllium. In August 2015, OSHA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) aimed at reducing the permissible exposure limit PEL for beryllium and creating a comprehensive health standard requiring PPE, medical exams and surveillance, and training. The comment period ended on November 5.
  • Respirator fit testing. The proposed rule would incorporate three new allowable fit-testing protocols for individuals assigned to use respirators. An NPRM is expected in March 2016.
  • Crane operator qualification in construction. The rulemaking would identify criteria for employers to follow to ensure their crane operators are completely qualified to operate cranes safely on construction work sites. An NPRM is projected for March 2016.

Prerules include:

  • Bloodborne pathogens. OSHA plans to evaluate the bloodborne pathogens standard (29 CFR 1010.1030) to determine its continued necessity, whether it overlaps with or conflicts with any other regulations, and the degree to which technology, economic conditions, or other factors may have changed since the rule was evaluated. The comment period ended in August, and OSHA plans to end its review and issue findings in December 2015.
  • Combustible dust. OSHA has had a combustible dust National Emphasis Program (NEP) since 2008, but currently does not have a comprehensive standard that addresses combustible dust hazards. The agency plans to use information gathered from the NEP to develop a rule for combustible dust in general industry. OSHA plans to initiate Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review in August 2016.
  • Lockout/tagout update. OSHA plans to issue a request for information (RFI) in September 2016 about the use of computer-based hazardous energy controls into lockout/tagout systems to understand the strengths and limitations of these new technologies.
  • Tree care. OSHA plans to hold a stakeholder meeting in June 2015 to address hazards in the tree care industry.
  • 1-Bromopropane. OSHA intends to issue an RFI in August 2016 about the hazards of 1-bromopropane, a solvent that can cause neurological problems at high exposures. There is currently no PEL for the chemical, and the RFI would allow OSHA to exposure the need for a new PEL or comprehensive rule.
  • Process safety management. OSHA issued an RFI in December 2013 aimed at identifying issues related to modernization of the process safety management (PSM) standard and related standards necessary for preventing major chemical accidents. The agency aims to complete SBREFA review by April 2016.

The full list of items on the DOL’s fall 2015 regulatory agenda can be found here.

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