OSHA Takes First Steps to Update National Consensus Standards

OSHA is taking on a massive project: Updating agency standards that reference or are based on outdated national consensus standards.

The agency is seeking comments on the first rulemaking actions associated with the update project, a direct final rule and notice of proposed rulemaking to revoke five references to national consensus standards and industry standards that are outdated. OSHA is proposing to revoke references found in its standards on Temporary Labor Camps, Guarding of Portable Power Tools, Sawmills, Flammable and Combustible Liquids, and Arc Welding and Cutting, all of which reference outdated consensus or industry standards.

"It's important that we move forward to update OSHA standards that reference national consensus standards issued over 30 years ago," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Our standards have to be amended so that they reflect the advances in technologies and work processes that have changed workplace safety."

The effort involves updating OSHA standards that reference or include language taken directly from outdated consensus standards. This includes updating or revoking outdated consensus standards incorporated by reference, and updating regulatory text of current OSHA rules that were adopted directly from the language of outdated consensus standards.

The agency plans to use a variety of regulatory approaches, including formal (notice and comment) rulemaking, direct final rulemaking and technical amendments, for updating or revoking outdated consensus standards incorporated by reference, and updating regulatory text of current OSHA rules that were adopted directly from the language of outdated consensus standards.

Revisions to the standards are being made through the direct final rule approach. This expedited approach saves regulatory resources over the more traditional rulemaking by streamlining one stage in the rulemaking process. In direct final rulemaking, OSHA publishes a final rule and proposed rule in the Federal Register at the same time. If no significant adverse comments are received on the direct final rule, it will become effective Feb. 22, 2005. However, if such comments are received, OSHA will withdraw the direct final rule and address the comments in a subsequent final rule document.

Public comments must be sent in triplicate by Dec. 27 to the Docket Office, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Room N-2625, Washington, D.C. 20210. Comments on the direct final rule and notice of proposed rulemaking should reference Docket No.S-023 A and comments on the overall project to update OSHA standards that are based on national consensus standards should reference Docket No. S-023.

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