OSHA Fall 2009 Agenda Includes 29 Regulatory Items

OSHA’s latest semiannual regulatory agenda, published Dec. 7 in the Federal Register, includes topics ranging from combustible dust to airborne infectious diseases to musculoskeletal disorder reporting requirements, to name a few. Some members of the safety community argue, however, that progress is too slow on rulemakings for issues such as cranes and derricks and diacetyl.

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA Jordan Barab conducted live Web chats on Dec. 7 to discuss the regulatory agenda.

“As you can see, OSHA has set an ambitious fall 2009 Agenda that includes 29 regulatory items,” Barab said during the Web chat. “Through these regulatory actions, the Agency continues to ensure good jobs for everyone through a safe and healthful workplace.”

Ergonomics

The agenda reveals that OSHA is developing a proposed rule for occupational injury and illness recording and reporting requirements that would define musculoskeletal disorders for recordkeeping purposes and add a column on work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) to the OSHA 300 Log. Tracking WMSDs in this way, OSHA said, could assist in safety and health policymaking and provide improved statistics on WMSDs. An Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is expected in January 2010.

Barab and Solis were both quick to point out, however, that this proposed rule is not the first step toward an ergonomics standard.

“Musculoskeletal injuries are one of the biggest worker health and safety problem in this country,” Barab told EHS Today during the live chat. “But addressing this problem is also a complicated regulatory and poltical issue which the agency is considering. At this time, OSHA has no plans to pursue ergonomics regulation, although the incoming Assistant Secretary will be addressing this issue as one of his highest priorities.”

Delays for Diacetyl, Cranes and Derricks

OSHA issued an ANPRM for a diacetyl standard in January and completed a small business review panel report in July. According to this agenda, OSHA will initiate a peer review of health effects and risk assessment on diacetyl in October 2010 – a time frame that some safety and health stakeholders claim equals an unnecessary delay.

“The Agency's analysis for diacetyl is particularly challenging given the nature of available health studies and ongoing research in this area,” Barab said in response to questions aimed at the diacetyl timeline. “We believe the projected Oct. 2010 date for the peer review reflects a reasonable timeframe in which to meet this challenge and develop a scientifically sound assessment.”

Similarly, the cranes and derricks rule also has a long wait. This rule, which has been in the works for 7 years, closed the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) comment period in January 2009, but according to the agenda, OSHA does not expect to publish the final rule until July 2010.

“The cranes and derricks standards for construction is one of our highest priorities. We issued a proposed rule and held hearings last year and plan to issue the final standard in July 2010,” Barab said.

Solis blamed the slow progress on the diacetyl and cranes and derricks standards on various “time-consuming hurdles” required before a standard can be issued.

Other Agenda Highlights

  • Airborne infectious diseases – OSHA will publish a Request for Information in March 2010 to work toward protecting the nation’s health care workers from airborne infectious diseases.
  • Combustible dust – OSHA currently is conducting stakeholder meetings, and the ANPRM comment period for combustible dust will end Jan. 19, 2010. “OSHA plans to use this information, along with comments submitted in response to the advance notice of proposed rulemaking, to identify the most effective approaches for developing a combustible dust proposed rule,” Barab said.
  • Silica – The peer review is slated to be complete in Jan. 2010, with an NPRM in July 2010.
  • Hearing conservation program for construction workers – OSHA included this on the agenda as a long-term action, but no specific future activity is outlined.
  • Walking/Working Surfaces, Subparts D & I – OSHA will publish a second NPRM in March 2010. OSHA said this rule could prevent 20 workplace fatalities and 3,500 injuries a year.
  • Hazard Communication – OSHA has moved toward preparing to align its hazcom standard with the Global Harmonization System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). OSHA published an NPRM in September 2009 and is planning hearings for February 2010.
  • Beryllium – OSHA continues to develop a rule to update the PEL for beryllium. OSHA completed an SBREFA report in January 2008, and intends to initiate a peer review of health effects and risk assessment in March 2010.

The live Web chats with Solis and Barab are part of 8 scheduled hours of live question and answer sessions regarding the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda.

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