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OSHA Priorities Include GHS, Silica and Cranes and Derricks

OSHA's latest regulatory agenda &#8211; published in the Dec. 11 <I>Federal Register</I> &#8211; lists cranes and derricks, crystalline silica and incorporating GHS into the agency's hazard communication standard as high priorities.

Cranes and Derricks

Updating the cranes and derricks portion of Subpart N – 29 CFR 1926.550 – has been on OSHA's agenda since 2001. "There have been considerable technological changes since the consensus standards upon which the 1971 OSHA standard is based were developed," OSHA says in its latest agenda. "In addition, industry consensus standards for derricks and crawler, truck and locomotive cranes were updated as recently as 2004."

In the most recent activity on this standard, the SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act) panel for the standard submitted its report on Oct. 17. Next, OSHA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking for cranes and derricks in October 2007.

GHS/Hazard Communication

In 2003, the United Nations adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). In light of the international goal to have as many countries as possible implement GHS by 2008, OSHA is considering modifying its hazard communication standard to make it consistent with GHS.

According to the agency, this would involve changing the criteria for classifying health and physical hazards, adopting standardized labeling requirements and requiring a standardized order of information for safety data sheets.

OSHA in its regulatory agenda says that by February 2007 it should have completed its review of comments that were received in response to an advance notice of proposed rulemaking issued on Sept. 12.

Crystalline Silica

According to the agency, more than 2 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica dust in general industry, construction and the maritime industries. Occupational exposure to crystalline silica over long periods of time can result in chronic silicosis. Exposure to high levels of respirable crystalline silica causes acute or accelerated forms of silicosis that are ultimately fatal.

Currently, OSHA seeks to control silica hazards in general industry through enforcement of a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for silica based on a formula recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) in 1971. The agency acknowledges that the current PEL for construction and maritime – derived from ACGIH's 1962 threshold limit value – "is based on particle counting technology, which is considered obsolete."

Creating a comprehensive standard for occupational exposure to crystalline silica has remained on OSHA's agenda for years, but the effort is mired in the pre-rule stage. Most recently, the agency postponed the completion of a peer review of the health effects of occupational exposure to crystalline silica from April to November and, on the most recent agenda, has postponed it again to April 2007.

However, development of a crystalline silica standard has been elevated to priority status.

Final Action for Employer-Payment-for-PPE Slated for May

In OSHA's previous regulatory agenda, final action for a standard requiring employers to pay for personal protective equipment still was pending, but final action now is scheduled for May 2007.

Other standards on the regulatory agenda slated for final action are:

  • Vertical tandem lifts for longshoring and marine terminals – June 2007.
  • Electric power transmission and distribution; electrical protective equipment – July 2007.
  • Revision and update of Subpart S electrical standards – January 2007.

In addition, other scheduled activities for the following standards include:

  • Occupational exposure to beryllium – complete SBREFA report, March 2007.
  • Updating OSHA standards based on national consensus standards – direct final rule, December 2006.
  • Revision and update of standards for power presses – notice of proposed rulemaking, December 2006.
  • Confined spaces in construction – notice of proposed rulemaking, February 2007.
  • General working conditions for shipyard employment – Notice of proposed rulemaking, January 2007.
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