OSHA Rulemaking Deadlines Are Imminent

At the end of a 4-year period unique in the annals of OSHA because the agency issued no new economically significant standards, OSHA's most recent regulatory agenda contained few changes.

Released last month, the agenda does confirm, however, that final decisions and further progress on some long-delayed standards are due in the coming weeks.

The agency has promised:

  • Final action before Feb. 1 on assigned protection factors (APF), an amendment to the 1998 respiratory protection rule;
  • A final decision by March on a proposal begun in 1999 that would clarify when employers must pay for workers' personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Public hearings on the decade-old hexavalent chromium rulemaking action, already scheduled to begin Feb. 1;
  • A proposed rule for confined space in construction by March, to complement a general industry standard issued 15 years ago.

OSHA is not always able to keep the promises it makes in the regulatory agenda, although it has recently been doing a better job of coming close to the deadlines it sets for itself, possibly because it now has fewer rulemaking deadlines to meet. For example, the previous regulatory agenda promised a final decision on APF by December, while the most recent agenda has pushed this back a month.

One notable change in the most recent regulatory agenda is the retreat of the proposed rule to protect the hearing of construction workers. After holding a stakeholders meeting on the issue in July, OSHA demoted hearing conservation for construction workers from "pre-rule" status to a "long-term action," with the next action now undetermined.

"The agency continues to review comments received, the additional public input from stakeholder meetings that were held in March and July of 2004," the regulatory agenda explains, "and is determining the next appropriate action."

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