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OSHA Accepts Comments on Direct Rule to Update Standards

OSHA announced in the Dec. 14 Federal Register it will accept public comments on the direct final rule designed to remove references to consensus standards with requirements that duplicate, or are comparable to, other existing rules.

“The agency believes these references are unnecessary, and only confuse employers about their compliance obligations,” OSHA said in the Federal Register.

For example, the standard regulating manlifts calls for guardrails with toeboards to meet the requirements of ANSI 12.1-1967: “Safety Requirements for Floor and Wall Openings, Railings, and Toeboards,” but these requirements are also found in 29 CFR 1910.23. According to OSHA, employers and employees should not have to refer to the 40-year-old ANSI standard if they could instead review applicable regulations in another rule.

In addition, the agency is removing a reference to American Welding Society standard A3.0-1969 ("Terms and Definitions") in OSHA's general industry welding standards. According to the agency, the technical terms used in the industry such as “arc welding,” “lead burning” and “inert gas” are commonly used and already understood within the industry. OSHA noted that requiring employers to consult with the 1969 AWS standard “places an unnecessary burden on them.”

Other references the direct final rule would address include:

  • Abrasive wheel specifications;
  • Marking of portable compressed gas cylinders; and
  • Spray finishing.

In this direct final rule and in the accompanying Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), OSHA would update its standards based on the National Consensus Standards.

ISEA: OSHA’s Approach “a Good One”

“This rule is part of OSHA’s ongoing effort to update its regulatory references to consensus standards,” said OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. “The revisions will clarify employer obligations and maintain current levels of employee protection.”

International Safety Equipment Association’s (ISEA) President Dan Shipp told that the approach OSHA was taking to remove outdated or duplicate references to consensus standards was “a good one.”

“We’ve reviewed the proposals and it’s a good way to keep consensus standards up to date,” he said. “ Many of the references in these standards are so old that some don’t even exist.”

Shipp said he hopes that the agency will one day adopt the same approach to update references to personal protective equipment (PPE) consensus standards, which according to him, place “references to well-known standards with a vague, generic requirement that PPE comply with an unspecified good design standard.”

Calls made to several labor groups for comment were unreturned.

The direct final rule will become effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Comments should be submitted by Jan. 14, 2008.

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