ISEA Advocates Safety, Health Management System and Foresees Vigorous OSHA Activity in 2009

We begin 2009 expecting the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to publish more proposed and final rules than it has in the recent past. ISEA understands OSHA staff members have been working on regulatory text for various projects, as discussed below. In addition, the health and safety community could also see, in the coming years, larger changes in workplace safety.

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) spoke with staff from the Obama transition team in mid-December. We recommended the agency consider an approach that would favor a safety and health management system. As many readers of Protection Update and EHS Today know, the basic concept behind this type of risk-based system is that employers and employees assess risks, develop and implement a plan to reduce the risks, and determine if the plan worked; if not, the plan is revised until its intended goals are met.

ISEA recommended that senior-level officials from the White House and the Labor Department convene a national conference to gather thoughts from stakeholders on how OSHA can be overhauled and revived to become more relevant to workers and workplaces of the 21st century. Many agree the current system of technical standards for specific activities in specific industries is not sustainable in today's economy.

While these larger discussions might be taking place, there are a number of regulatory projects at OSHA that could begin to move soon, such as the following:

  • Final Rule Stage: The low-hanging fruit.

    1. Updating OSHA Standards Based on National Consensus Standards. ISEA and others argued against this proposed rule that would have reduced the relevance of ANSI and ASTM standards. Under this proposed rule, the only test for OSHA's approval of a new standard would have been whether the standard met the so-called “Good Design Criteria.” There would have been no consideration about whether a new standard is as protective as other standards already recognized by OSHA. At press time, this issue was still pending.

    2. Abbreviated Bitrix Qualitative Fit-Testing Protocol. ISEA supported this new fit-test protocol because a shorter qualitative fit test might encourage more employers to conduct fit testing. In addition, ISEA recommended a validating study. OSHA says a final rule could be published in November or any time after that. At press time, it has not been published.

  • Proposed Rule Stage: Comment periods have closed on these rules; the next step is a final rule.

    1. Confined Spaces in Construction. OSHA may write a new standard to protect construction workers who enter confined spaces. A general industry confined space rule was published in 1993 and some construction employers used that standard. However, stakeholders say a standard for the construction industry is required, too. ISEA submitted comments and testified at the hearing on this issue, advocating the use of fall protection, personnel retrieval systems and continuous monitoring in all confined spaces. OSHA did not propose a date for next action.

    2. Electric Power Transmission and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment. This proposed rule would update safety and health practices in the electric power industry, notably the use of fall-arrest equipment. The rule would harmonize general industry and construction work so that safety measures are the same for similar work in any industry. ISEA supported this proposed rule and submitted comments. OSHA will take action on this rule in 2009.

    3. General Working Conditions for Shipyard Employment. The current proposal addressing general working conditions in shipyards is the last part of an OSHA project on shipyards. This rulemaking relates to first aid, eyewash and shower, high-visibility apparel, sanitation, housekeeping and other workplace practices at shipyards. ISEA supported this rule and submitted comments. Hearings were held in October and September. Final action could take place in 2009.

    4. Walking/Working Hazards. In 1990, OSHA proposed a rule addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards and establishing requirements for personal fall-protection systems. ISEA members have asked members of Congress to write to OSHA in support of this rule. OSHA suggests another proposed rule could be issued by March, 2009. ISEA will advocate for action by this date.

    5. Cranes and Derricks. The rule addresses work practices regarding cranes and derricks, including the use of fall arrest equipment when hoisting personnel, when personnel are working over water, and in other situations. The comment period closed on Jan. 22.

    6. Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)/Hazard Communication System. There is an international goal to have as many countries as possible implement the GHS by 2008. OSHA is considering modifying its hazard communication system to make it consistent with the GHS. This would change the criteria for classifying health and physical hazards, adopting standardized labeling requirements, and requiring a standardized order of information for safety data sheets.

Please contact me at [email protected] or 703-525-1695 if would like additional information on any of these subjects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Glucksman is director of public affairs for the International Safety Equipment Association, where he directs the legislative and regulatory program for the association and its product groups. His “Washington Watch” column is a regular feature of Protection Update. Reach him at [email protected] or 703-525-1695.

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TAGS: Archive PPE OSHA
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