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August 02, 2013
What's on OSHA's mind? Highlights from the Spring 2013 Semiannual Regulatory Agenda
By Emily Scace, Senior Editor, Safety

On July 3, OSHA’s regulatory priorities were laid out in the federal government’s Spring 2013 Semiannual Agenda of Regulations. Also known as the Unified Agenda, this document lists final rules, proposed rules, and prerules currently under consideration. So what will OSHA focus on in the coming months? Here’s a snapshot:

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Final Rules

Final rules are closest to implementation but still require review from various agencies (depending on the specifics of the rule) before becoming law.

  • Confined Spaces in Construction. Currently, OSHA’s confined space rule applies only to general industry worksites. If implemented, OSHA’s new rule would add confined space regulations to its construction industry standards.
  • Electric Power Transmission and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment. Under this rule, OSHA would update and streamline the construction industry standard for electric power transmission and distribution, which is nearly 40 years old.

    OSHA also plans to bring the corresponding general industry standard in line with the construction standard. This would ensure that safety requirements for maintenance and construction work performed on electric power and distribution systems are equivalent.

    Finally, OSHA plans to update some general industry requirements for electrical protective equipment and foot protection, as well as fall protection requirements in aerial lifts used for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution installations.

  • Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems. OSHA plans to update its slip, trip, and fall prevention rules to incorporate current technology and add personal fall protection systems to its personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.
  • Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements. For the purposes of listing industry classifications that are partially exempt from injury and illness recordkeeping requirements, OSHA plans to switch from the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to the newer North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The switch will mean that a number of industries that formerly had partial exemptions will be newly subject to the recordkeeping requirements, while some industries that have been required to keep injury and illness records will become partially exempt.

    In addition, OSHA plans to revise its injury and illness reporting requirements. Under the revised rule, employers would be required to report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities to OSHA within 8 hours, and all work-related amputations within 24 hours. The current rule requires reporting of in-patient hospitalizations only when three or more employees are affected and does not include a specific provision for amputations.

  • Vertical Tandem Lifts. OSHA is reopening the record on its vertical tandem lift rule to address issues surrounding two requirements that were remanded by a U.S. Court of Appeals: the inspection requirement for ship-to-shore vertical tandem lifts and the total ban on platform container vertical tandem lifts.

Proposed Rules

The proposed rules are draft regulations that are submitted for comment and feedback from stakeholders and reviewed by various agencies before proceeding to the next phase.

  • Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica. Crystalline silica is an abundant mineral in the earth’s crust, and many workers are exposed to it, particularly those engaged in mining, construction, stonecutting, welding, and similar activities. Exposure to high levels of airborne crystalline silica can lead to silicosis, a disease in which scar tissue forms in the lungs and reduces the ability to extract oxygen from the air.

    OSHA proposes to implement a comprehensive standard for crystalline silica. The current permissible exposure limits (PELs) for both general industry and construction are considered outdated. A comprehensive standard would include requirements for exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and worker training.

  • Occupational Exposure to Beryllium. Beryllium is a metal used in many industries and workplace activities. Exposure to beryllium, typically through inhalation but sometimes via skin contact, can lead to sensitization, chronic beryllium disease, lung cancer, and skin disease. OSHA has determined that the current PEL for beryllium may not be adequate to protect workers and is proposing to amend the standard.
  • Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Injury and Illness Prevention Programs (I2P2s) are comprehensive workplace safety plans that analyze and address hazards in the workplace and take a multifaceted, holistic approach to safety. I2P2s are currently required in California, but there is no corresponding federal requirement. OSHA is developing a rule that would require businesses to implement I2P2s.
  • Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. OSHA is proposing to update and modernize its illness and injury reporting system and implement an electronic recordkeeping system.
  • Consensus Standard Update—Signage. OSHA is proposing to update the references to consensus standards in its rules for nonionizing radiation (29 CFR 1910.97); specifications for accident prevention signs and tags (29 CFR 1910.145); and pulp, paper, and paperboard mills (29 CFR 1910.261).

    The current rules reference 1967 and 1968 versions of ANSI standards, and OSHA proposes to reference the latest version of the two relevant standards: ANSI Z53.1, Safety Code for Marking Physical Hazards and the Identification of Certain Equipment, and ANSI A53.1, Specification for Accident Prevention Signs. Older signs that currently comply with OSHA requirements would be grandfathered.

  • Revising Record Requirements in the Mechanical Power Press Standard. OSHA is examining eliminating the requirements for employers who use mechanical power presses to maintain records of machinery tests and inspections.
  • Cranes and Derricks in Construction. OSHA is proposing several amendments and corrections to the construction standard for cranes and derricks that was published in August 2010. Most of these are minor clarifications and wording alterations.

Prerules

In addition to the Final and Proposed Rules, OSHA published several Prerules. Though these are far from implementation, they nevertheless provide insight into OSHA’s overall direction and long-term priorities. Some highlights:

  • Process Safety Management and Flammable Liquids. OSHA is examining its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard to determine if revisions are necessary to address gaps in coverage. OSHA is also considering an update to its Flammable Liquids and Spray Finishing standards to incorporate the latest consensus standards.
  • Review/Lookback of Chemical Standards. Most of OSHA’s PELs are considered to be outdated. OSHA is proposing to review these standards and determine whether revisions that take newer scientific data into account are necessary.
  • Reinforced Concrete in Construction and Preventing Backover Injuries and Fatalities. OSHA is examining these issues to determine if additional standards are necessary to protect workers.
  • Infectious Disease. Although a standard exists for preventing exposure to bloodborne pathogens, there is no corresponding standard for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, and pandemic influenza. OSHA plans to evaluate whether such a standard is needed.
  • Combustible Dust. OSHA plans to develop a combustible dust standard for general industry. Currently, no specific standard exists, but OSHA implemented a National Emphasis Program in 2008 and has cited employers for this hazard under the General Duty Clause.
  • Bloodborne Pathogens. OSHA will review its Bloodborne Pathogen Standard to determine its continued necessity.

A full list of all items on the agenda can be found here.

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