OSHA Publishes Final Rule on Shipyard Working Conditions

On May 2, OSHA announced a final rule, “General Working Conditions in Shipyard Employment,” that updates existing shipyard requirements to improve worker health and safety and prevent up to 350 serious injuries annually.

The final rule, which was published in the May 2 Federal Register, updates and clarifies provisions in the shipyard employment standards that largely had gone unchanged since OSHA adopted them in 1972. These changes reflect advances in industry practices and technology and provide new protections from hazards that previously were not addressed, including the control of hazardous energy.

“This final rule is the result of collaboration between OSHA and the maritime industry,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “Shipyard work is dangerous, and we believe we have crafted a rule that protects workers while balancing employer concerns regarding implementation.”

The rule addresses 14 workplace safety and health categories and, among other updates, establishes minimum lighting for certain work sites; accounts for employees at the end of job tasks or shifts when working alone; adds uniform criteria to ensure shipyards have an adequate number of appropriately trained first-aid providers; and updates sanitation requirements.

OSHA also added a provision for motor vehicle safety to protect workers from transportation incidents, which, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, account for nearly 20 percent of all shipyard fatalities. The new rule seeks to significantly reduce such incidents by requiring the use of seatbelts when operating motor vehicles in a shipyard.

Finally, for the first time, the agency included a provision for the control of hazardous energy. Until now rule, the maritime industry did not have a specific standard to address this issue.

This final rule covers diverse working conditions in shipyard employment, including sanitation, medical services and first aid, motor vehicle and pedestrian safety, lighting, housekeeping and hazardous energy. OSHA has updated a designated Web page to answer frequently asked questions regarding the rule.

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