Steel Erection Compliance Directive Roils Stakeholders

Some believe OSHA has subverted the negotiated rulemaking process.

"It undermines trust among stakeholders and the integrity of the negotiated rulemaking process," Frank Migliaccio, executive director of safety and health for the International Association of Ironworkers, complained when asked about the compliance directive for OSHA''s new steel erection standard.

"We feel the compliance directive misinterprets some parts of the standard," commented Eric Waterman, vice president of the Association of Union Constructors, otherwise known as NEA.

Why are Migliaccio, Waterman and other stakeholders disgruntled at the final version of the compliance directive? Migliaccio and Waterman believe OSHA''s directive, released in late March, violates the spirit, as well as the letter, of what was agreed to over the course of 18 months of often-intense negotiation by the Steel Erection Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (SENRAC), which developed the standard (29 CFR 1926 Subpart R).

Waterman welcomed the compliance directive''s treatment of the connector''s freedom of movement, but he identified three outstanding issues that he believes the document (CPL 2-1.34) failed to resolve:

  • The directive states that with 100 percent fall protection, plank floors are not required at prescribed heights.
  • OSHA is limiting the definition of some steel erection activities and implying that Subpart M fall protection rules would apply, even though SENRAC specifically designed the rule so that it would be all-inclusive for all steel erection activities.
  • The negotiated rule clearly requires the field installation of shear studs on iron beams [1926.764(c)(1)], but the directive states that failure to meet this requirement will be considered "de minimus," with no citation issued for shop-installed studs, provided all workers have fall protection.

It is the latter issue that most upset Migliaccio. He argued that having workers walk on the studs is dangerous, even with fall protection, because they pose a tripping hazard that will not be addressed by fall protection.

Migliaccio also believes the negotiated rulemaking procedure was undermined when the Associated General Contractors (AGC) lobbied OSHA to allow for shop-installed studs. He noted that AGC sat on SENRAC.

"Why didn''t they speak up then?" he asked. "They''re going through the back door to get what they want."

William Brown, president and CEO of Ben Hur Construction Co. and the AGC representative to SENRAC, said proponents of field-installed shear studs have a good argument about the process being undermined by this portion of the compliance document. "I was not consulted about the change," he said.

Brown added that a good case can be made by those who believe shop-installed shear studs are safe. "There are ways to avoid walking on the top flange of girders: lifts, man baskets or scaffolding."

Brown also believes the final steel erection standard with its compliance directive is an improvement over what it is replacing and that, over time, stakeholders will correct the new rule''s defects.

"We have members with excellent safety records who field-install shear studs and others with excellent safety records who shop-install," said Jeff Shoaf, executive director for congressional relations for AGC.

Shoaf confirmed that his organization asked OSHA to consider changing the directive to allow for more flexibility on this issue. He argued that the negotiated rulemaking process has not been undermined because OSHA always has the final authority to issue and enforce all workplace standards.

by James Nash ([email protected])

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