OSHA Releases New Recordkeeping, Needlestick Standards

After years of work, in a flurry of last-minute rulemaking OSHA\r\ncame out with three standards in three days -- the final three days\r\nof the Clinton administration.

After years of work, in a flurry of last-minute rulemaking OSHA came out with three standards in three days -- the final three days of the Clinton administration.

The most far-reaching of these new standards, the revised rule employers must follow to record workplace injuries and illnesses, will be published today in the Federal Register. The revised bloodborne pathogens was published yesterday and OSHA issued the new steel erection standard Wednesday.

In a special press briefing held to discuss the final rules of his tenure as OSHA Administrator, Charles Jeffress explained what he believed to be the most significant features of the three new rules.

Recordkeeping

  • A simpler form, Jeffress said, without the confusing injury/illness distinction, should be easier for employers to understand.
  • The old "lost time" category has been scrapped, and replaced with "days away from work," because employers often did not know whether restricted work or light duty should be considered as lost time.
  • In order to bring recordkeeping into harmony with OSHA''s new ergonomics rule, musculoskeletal disorders are treated just like other injuries and illnesses.
  • Jeffress also said the revised recordkeeping rule requires a "significant degree of workplace aggravation before a pre-existing injury or illness" becomes recordable.
  • The revised rule will affect approximately 1.3 million establishments, and OSHA has changed some of the industries with reporting requirements. The original recordkeeping rule is thirty years old, and in that time some industries that once were considered to be highly hazardous, no longer are -- and vice versa.
  • The new recordkeeping will not take affect until Jan. 1, 2002, and until that time employers must continue to use the existing recordkeeping forms.

Bloodborne pathogens

  • The primary benefit of revising OSHA''s bloodborne pathogens standard will flow from the new requirement that employers record the types and brands of all needlesticks they use. "This will help employers determine the effectiveness of the devices they use," Jeffress said.
  • The revised rule mandates consideration of safer needle devices as part of the re-evaluation of engineering controls during the annual review of the employer''s exposure control plan.
  • The revisions to OSHA''s existing standard follow a law passed unanimously by Congress and signed by President Clinton last November.
  • The updated rule will become effective April 18.

Steel Erection

  • Jeffress called the steel erection standard "the culmination years of work" that will provide major advances in the protections given to iron workers.
  • The most significant advance, according to Jeffress, is the requirement for stable structural and foundational measures, (e.g. the use of cured concrete and improved anchor bolts).
  • Jeffress also mentioned the additional fall protection requirements that call for workers to use this safeguard if they are working 15 feet above a platform. This provision nearly sank the final rule because of a dispute between OSHA and stakeholders who wanted fall protection to be optional upto 30 feet.

For more details on OSHA''s recordkeeping rule, visit OSHA''s Web site at www.osha.gov.

by James Nash

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