More Delays on OSHA's Latest Agenda

OSHA's latest semiannual regulatory agenda, published in the April 30 <I>Federal Register</I>, includes predictable delays for long-awaited standards such as crystalline silica and occupational exposure to beryllium, to name a few.

Crystalline silica – a compound that workers in construction, maritime and general industry are routinely exposed to – has been cited as the cause of silicosis, which is a disabling, if not fatal, disease. The standard has been on OSHA's regulatory agenda for years, but it has not moved past the pre-rule stage. Previously slated for April, OSHA's latest agenda indicates that a complete peer review of health effects and risk assessment will be done by September.

Occupational exposure to beryllium also has been on OSHA's plate for some time now. Since 2001, OSHA has been in the process of gathering data through an official request for information in order to determine an appropriate course of action for addressing work-related hazards to beryllium. The agency, in its previous regulatory agenda, had indicated that the a SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act) panel would complete its report by March. The standard has been postponed to September.

OSHA Promised to Churn Out PPE Standard by November

Another hot topic on the agenda has been the employer-payment-for-PPE standard. The agenda notes that an interim final rule had been scheduled for April. However, in response to a lawsuit filed in January by AFL-CIO and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Department of Labor promised that OSHA by November will issue a final rule on the standard. (For more read Chao: “OSHA Will Issue PPE Rule by November.”)

Ever since the United Nations adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in 2003, several nations as well as the European Union have been preparing proposals for adoption of GHS. OSHA admits that “U.S. manufacturers, employers and employees will be at a disadvantage in the event that our system of hazard communication is not compliant with the GHS.” The agency has indicated that it will submit a complete peer review of economic analysis by August.

In 1993, OSHA issued a rule to protect workers from the hazards associated with working in confined spaces (storage tanks, sewers, silos, etc.) but the rule did not cover construction workers. As part of a settlement agreement with the United Steelworkers of America, OSHA agreed to propose a rule to protect workers employed on construction sites. According to the agency's latest agenda, an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking for confined spaces on construction sites has been scheduled for August – as opposed to February, as it was noted in the previous agenda.

Other items on the regulatory agenda, which are slated for final action, include:

  • Updating OSHA standards based on national consensus standards – direct final rule, June.
  • Vertical tandem lifts for longshoring and marine terminals – December.
  • Electric power transmission and distribution; electrical protective equipment – June 2008
  • Revision and update of Subpart S – electrical standards – final action, effective August.
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