OSHA Agenda Includes Injury and Illness Prevention Program

In addition to familiar topics such as cranes and derricks, diacetyl, beryllium and crystalline silica, OSHA’s spring 2010 regulatory agenda contains some new, high-priority items – an Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard and a move to modernize the agency’s injury and illness reporting systems.

OSHA Administrator David Michaels called the agenda “ambitious” and held a live Web chat April 26 to field questions and comments from stakeholders.

“This regulatory agenda only represents those items in which we are moving aggressively forward on at this time,” Michaels said during the chat. “OSHA does not have the resources to move forward aggressively on all rulemaking necessary to address all the pressing workplace health and safety hazards. These are very challenging decisions when American workers are being killed, injured or made ill on the job every day by a variety of hazards.”

Injury and Illness Prevention Program

The agenda introduces a potential rule that would require employers to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which would involve “planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving processes and activities that protect employee safety and health.”

“Requiring employers to ‘find and fix’ the hazards in their workplaces does represent a major paradigm shift for OSHA,” Michaels said. “I believe it is long overdue.”

Michaels could not yet offer specific information the standard, including its scope, which industries it would cover or what type of resources the agency could offer employers, but said that employers would be responsible for all hazards in their workplace. He also stressed that the standard would not be a substitute for other OSHA standards and instead would offer “a mechanism to achieve the culture change needed in this country to effectively address workplace safety and health issues.”

OSHA will hold stakeholder meetings in June to solicit input on this item. Further details will be published in an upcoming Federal Register.

The agenda also included the new “Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements – Modernizing OSHA’s Reporting System” in the pre-rule stage. Stakeholder meetings are planned for July.

“Currently, OSHA only requires recording injuries on paper,” Michaels said. “We believe that moving to a more modern, electronic system will provide information to employers and workers that can be used in real time to investigate and prevent injuries. It will also help OSHA target those workplaces where workers are at greatest risk for injury.”

Ergonomics

The recordkeeping requirement of adding a musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) column to the OSHA 300 log, which was introduced in the Fall 2009 agenda, is expected to become a final rule in July.

When EHS Today asked Michaels what other steps OSHA is taking to address ergonomics, he said: “In addition to adding an MSDS column to the 300 log, OSHA will be increasing its enforcement of ergonomic hazards under its General Duty Clause. We are continuing to consider additional approaches to addressing ergonomic hazards.”

While Michaels has stressed in the past that an ergonomics standard is not currently on the agency’s radar, he added during the live chat that an Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard would require employers to identify all hazards in the workplace, which may include ergonomics.

Other agenda highlights include:

  • Cranes and Derricks – This standard’s timeline remains unchanged since the Fall 2009 agenda, with a final rule still slated for July.
  • Combustible Dust – A combustible dust standard is listed on the agenda as a long-term action. Even so, Michaels stressed it was a priority. “We are aggressively doing the research necessary to support this rule,” he said. “However, the issues in this rulemaking are very complex and take time to address. In the interim, we are continuing inspections under our National Emphasis Program using existing OSHA standards and our authority under the General Duty clause.”
  • Infectious Diseases – OSHA announced the addition of Airborne Infectious Diseases as a regulatory project in the Fall 2009 agenda. The name has now been changed to “Infectious Diseases” to address the hazards of other infectious diseases.
  • Diacetyl – Progress seems to remain slow on a diacetyl standard. OSHA plans to initiate a peer review of health effects and risk assessment in October.
  • Beryllium – The beryllium standard remains on the agenda, with a complete peer review expected to be complete by November. “Beryllium presents a number of unique and complex scientific challenges,” Michaels said. “However, we are moving forward aggressively and just recently initiated the peer review of the health effects and risk assessment. At the same time, we are drafting a proposed rule which will incorporate comments from our peer review when it is completed later this year.”
  • Walking-Working Surfaces – A second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is expected in May.
  • Crystalline Silica – A peer review was completed in January and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is expected in February 2011.

Withdrawn Items

Several items – including a hearing conservation program for construction workers, emergency response and preparedness and tree care operations – were removed from the regulatory agenda “due to resource constraints and other priorities.”

“OSHA only has resources available to work on a certain number of standards at the current time,” Michaels said. “We have decided to remove some items from the regulatory agenda where we do not currently have the resources to move them forward in the near future. This does not preclude adding those items back on to the regulatory agenda as resources permit.”

Finally, this agenda did not address the issue of outdated permissible exposure limits (PELs).

“Updating PELs is not a simple undertaking and previous regulatory efforts to do so have not been successful,” Michaels told EHS Today during the Web chat. “While OSHA has not made a determination how to proceed, we are looking at strategies that will better address chemical exposures in the workplace.”

Michaels added that OSHA is interested in exploring alternatives to setting single substance PELs as its primary strategy, including a more “programmatic approach” to chemical hazards management.

“The [Injury and Illness Prevention Program] project is one avenue to explore, but OSHA would also consider other regulatory and non-regulatory approaches,” said Michaels.

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