OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress made another prediction about when the long-awaited revisions to OSHA''s recordkeeping would be published, but with time running out on the Clinton Administration, this time he may turn out to be right.
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) completed its review of the standard in this week, and Jeffress said he expected the rule to be published later in the month.
Further indications about new rules on the horizon were revealed by the release of the agency''s semi-annual regulatory agenda and conversation with OSHA insiders.
Because most new administrations put regulations that are not published on hold until they can review them, what may be of most significance is which rules will be issued before Inauguration Day. For this reason OSHA, like most government agencies, is making a final push to complete regulations that have been in the works for years.
OMB has completed its review of the steel erection for ironworkers rule and safety and prevention of needlestick injuries, so these rules also may be issued before President Clinton leaves office. The needlestick rule is the result of a law passed by Congress late last year that requires changes to OSHA''s bloodborne pathogens standard.
Employer payment for personal protective equipment and occupational exposure to tuberculosis are two other final rules OSHA is trying to complete before President Clinton leaves office, but one OSHA insider said success here is less likely.
Unlike what happened with the ergonomics standard, OSHA has chosen not to publish the recordkeeping rule immediately after OMB completed its review.
One source familiar with the standard said that concerns about privacy issues were proving to be the major stumbling block to completing revisions to the forms used by employers to record occupational injuries and illnesses. Charles Jeffress has said that because of greater access to information through computer technology, privacy is a far more complicated issue now than 30 years ago, when the forms were first developed.
The new recordkeeping rule will would not become effective until January 2002, and until then employers must continue to use the 200 log or else they can be cited when inspected.
OSHA officials declined to answer specific questions about the final recordkeeping rule before it is published, but Jeffress did talk about the standard briefly in his appearance before the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health last December.
He said the new rule differs from the proposal published in 1996 in making clearer the issues of when an injury is work-related, when musculoskeletal injuries must be reported, and how to define light duty. These issues are closely connected with the ergonomics standard, and one reason the recordkeeping rule has been held up is that OSHA had to co-ordinate it with the ergonomics rule that was published last November.
Jeffress said the final rule would free many industry sectors from having to comply with recordkeeping requirements if their industry''s injury or illness rate falls below the average. On the other hand, he said the final recordkeeping rule would include many industries that were not covered previously.
by James Nash