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August 12, 2022
OSHA Developing Six Economically Significant Rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing six rule-makings considered economically significant, according to an August 8 Department of Labor (DOL) regulatory agenda notice (87 FR 48358). Two rule-makings in the “prerule” stage address process safety management (PSM) to prevent major chemical accidents and workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance.

Four other economically significant rule-makings are in the proposed rule stage and regard communications tower safety, emergency response, infectious diseases, and the tree care industry.

Process Safety Management and Major Chemical Accidents

The agency plans to hold stakeholder meetings soon on a rule-making to revise the agency’s PSM standard to better prevent major chemical accidents, according to the Labor Department’s regulatory agenda item. OSHA issued a request for information (RFI) in December 2013, which pointed out issues related to modernizing the PSM standard for highly hazardous chemicals. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) currently has 14 open recommendations for OSHA to address.

Workplace Violence

OSHA plans to initiate a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel in September to consider a workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare and social assistance, according to DOL. There is no current federal workplace violence standard. OSHA cites employers under the General Duty Clause (§5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it finds employees exposed to workplace violence hazards.

The agency issued voluntary prevention guidelines in 1996 for healthcare and social assistance. OSHA published an RFI in December 2016 seeking information from healthcare employers, workers, and subject matter experts on the impacts of violence, prevention strategies, and other information about a possible federal standard.

In the final days of the Obama administration, OSHA granted petitions for a rule-making from the National Nurses Union and a coalition of other labor unions.

Communications Tower Safety

The agency plans to issue a notice of proposed rule-making (NPRM) for a communications tower safety standard in March 2023, according to DOL’s agenda.

While the number of workers in the communications tower industry is small, the fatality rate in the construction and maintenance sectors of the industry is very high and has greatly exceeded the fatality rate for the construction industry over the past 20 years, according to the agency.

Emergency Response

The agency plans to issue an NPRM in May 2023 for an emergency response standard.

A number of current OSHA standards apply to emergency preparedness and response, but there is no comprehensive federal safety standard. The agency also has acknowledged that its standards do not reflect current emergency response practices or consensus industry standards.

Infectious Diseases

OSHA plans to issue an NPRM for an infectious diseases standard in May 2023, according to DOL’s regulatory agenda. Workers in healthcare and other high-risk workplaces face exposure to infectious diseases that include chickenpox and shingles (varicella disease), measles, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and tuberculosis (TB), as well as new and emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19, pandemic influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Tree Care

OSHA plans to issue an NPRM in December for a tree care industry standard.

A patchwork of standards applies to hazards in tree care operations, prompting the industry to petition OSHA to issue a rule-making specific to tree care. OSHA issued an advance notice of proposed rule-making (ANPRM) in September 2008; an SBREFA panel completed its review of a possible rule-making in May 2020.

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