Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, led the Web chat along with other OSHA staff members. They fielded several questions that addressed the hazard communication ruling, which will align the current hazcom standard with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. It is expected to become a final rule in September.
“OSHA’s preliminary estimate is that updating the Hazard Communication Standard will create a substantial annualized savings for employers of at least $585 million. The majority of these benefits will be realized through increases in productivity for health and safety managers as well as for logistics personnel,” Barab and OSHA representatives said during the chat.
Agency staff clarified that OSHA did not propose changes in how workplaces maintain material safety data sheets (MSDS) or any changes for workplace labeling requirements. Any updates will be announced upon publication of the final hazcom rule.
The I2P2 Question
Several participants requested more information about I2P2, an initiative that would require employers to “find and fix” hazards, but ultimately left with few concrete answers. OSHA remains unable to share many details about this proposal, which remains in the pre-rule stage and was scheduled for a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel review in June.
In the Web chat, OSHA staff explained, “We delayed initiating SBREFA in order to gather more stakeholder input and conduct the economic and feasibility analyses. OSHA plans to begin the SBREFA process shortly.”
The agency also is unable to define the program’s scope at this time and has not determined a date for publishing the proposed rule.
“As the process moves forward, we look forward to comments from workers and businesses about how best to target this important standard,” agency representatives explained.
In response to a question about a possible ergonomics standard, the OSHA staff again stressed that there are no plans to introduce ergonomics to the agenda.
“However, OSHA acknowledges that musculoskeletal disorders account for almost 1/3 of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work,” agency representatives wrote during the chat. “Rather than promulgating an ergonomic [standard] at this time, OSHA will continue addressing this issue through providing guidance as well as through enforcement using the general duty clause under 5 (a)(1).”
The regulatory agenda does include a proposed rule to add a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) column to the OSHA 300 log. The agency currently is reviewing comments from small business representatives and others to “determine an appropriate course of action.”
A possible combustible dust rule remains on the agenda in the pre-rule stage, with an SBREFA panel review scheduled for December 2011. OSHA had delayed this review to make time to hold an expert forum on combustible dust.
“OSHA believed that such a forum would be helpful given the wide breadth of potential dusts and processes that might be covered by an OSHA standard and the potential impact on small facilities,” the agency explained during the chat. “OSHA believes that this forum will be helpful as we prepare to convene a SBREFA panel to examine in depth all possible approaches the Agency can take to formulate a comprehensive combustible standard.”
OSHA has not yet determined the scope of the combustible dust rule.