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May 15, 2013
Lawyer warns employers of OSHA scrutiny

Employment Attorney Michael Abcarian believes a variety of regulatory programs planned by OSHA this year will significantly impact how employers do business. In a recent blog post, Abcarian, regional managing partner with Fisher & Phillips, LLP, in Dallas, says that many new, stricter initiatives and regulations that had been on hold during the presidential election are now back on the table.

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He warns that agency scrutiny may be especially close for construction employers. Abcarian notes that several of OSHA’s top 10 most frequently cited violations—including fall protection—are tied to construction.

Employers should be mindful of the following:

  • This year marks the first deadline for compliance with some elements of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). By December 1, 2013, affected employers must complete training on new label elements and the safety data sheet (SDS).
  • Tighter and more comprehensive reporting and recordkeeping requirements are likely. An OSHA proposal would require reporting of inpatient hospitalizations within 8 hours, rather than within 24 hours as is now required.
  • Another proposal seeks to expand confined space protection to construction sites. The idea is to give workers the same protection that applies under general industry standards.
  • OSHA is showing interest in the issue of heat-related injury and illness, a particular concern to construction employers. Though there is no specific regulation, Abcarian says OSHA may consider using the General Duty Clause to cite employers that expose workers to heat-related stress. The agency has developed a webpage on the topic at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.

Abcarian also emphasizes the importance of staying current with agency developments and adds, “When an employer is cited by OSHA for noncompliance of a workplace safety regulation, claiming lack of knowledge won’t get them very far.”

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