A Look At OSHA’s 2019 Unified Agenda

A Look At OSHA’s 2019 Unified Agenda

While many agencies have seen administrators come and go or been plagued by questionable decision-making, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has largely remained out of the limelight over the last two years. OSHA’s 2019 regulatory agenda outlines 25 areas that the agency is focused on addressing in the short and long-term. Below is a synopsis of the regulatory changes that are in the proposed or final rule stage of the rulemaking process. For more information on OSHA’s current unified agenda, including pre-rule developments and long-term actions, click here

Proposed Rules

Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard

According to OSHA, these corrections and amendments to the final standard for cranes and derricks published in August 2010 are designed to eliminate confusion and improve workplace safety. This includes:

  • Corrections to references to direct current and alternating current power line voltages
  • Expanding the exclusion for forklifts carrying loads under the forks from “winch or hook” to with a “winch and boom”
  • Clarifying an exclusion for work activities by articulating cranes
  • Adding four new definitions that were inadvertently omitted in the 2010 rule
  • Replacing “minimum approach distance” with “minimum clearance distance” throughout to remove ambiguity
  • Clarifying the use of demarcated boundaries for work near power lines
  • Correcting an error permitting body belts to be used as a personal fall arrest system rather than a personal fall restraint system
  • Replacing the verb “must” with “may” in several provisions
  • Correcting an error in a caption on standard hand signals
  • Resolving an issue of “NRTL-approved” safety equipment (e.g., proximity alarms and insulating devices) that is required by the final standard but isn’t commercially available as of the date of publication

Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Exemption Expansions for Railroad Roadway Work

This rule change is required as part of a settlement agreement that was reached between OSHA and the Association of American Railroads (AAR), which filed a petition for review on October 7, 2010 that challenged certain exemptions affecting railroad roadway work. The settlement agreement, which was agreed to in 2014, requires OSHA to propose a rule to expand exemptions affecting railroad roadway work. OSHA is required under the settlement to provide an additional exemption from the crane standard for a particular class of track maintenance hoisting equipment, as well as partial exemptions from or alternate work practices to the cranes standard.

Update to the Hazard Communication Standard

This will be updated to existing Hazard Communication Standard regulations to incorporate the latest changes to the Global Harmonization System. According to OSHA, the rulemaking was based on the third edition of the GHS and the UN recently released its seventh edition. The proposed rulemaking will harmonize the HCS to the latest edition of the GHS and codify several enforcement policies that have been issued since the 2012 standard was published.

Exposure to Beryllium NPRM to Review General Industry Provisions

Beryllium is back on the agenda for 2019 after OSHA published a final ruling on the matter in January 2017 and rules went into effect in 2018. OSHA is reopening rulemaking based on stakeholder feedback and to resolve pending litigation. According to OSHA, they are planning to propose revisions to certain provisions in the general industry standard to clarify the standard in response to stakeholder questions or to simplify compliance. There are no plans to weaken protections designed to protect workers from adverse health effects of beryllium exposure.

Final Rules

Standards Improvement Project IV 

According to OSHA, the Standards Improvement Projects (SIP) are intended to remove or revise duplicative, unnecessary, and inconsistent safety and health standards. OSHA has previously published three final standards to remove unnecessary provisions (63 FR 33450, 70 FR 1111 and 76 FR 33590) to reduce costs or paperwork burden on employers. OSHA’s latest project has identified revisions to existing standards for recordkeeping, general industry, maritime, and construction standards. One of the biggest changes OSHA has proposed is to remove the requirements that employers include an employee’s social security number on exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and other safety records in order to protect employee privacy and reduce the risk of identity theft and fraud. OSHA estimates that all of the SIP IV changes will result in net annual cost savings of $6.1M.

Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol: Amendment to the Final Rule on Respiratory Protection 

OSHA is proposing to add three new quantitative fit test protocols that reduce the time required to complete the fit test while maintaining acceptable test sensitivity, specificity, and predictive value. This rulemaking action evaluates the efficacy of the submitted fit test protocols and, if appropriate, will adopt them in appendix A of the standard. Under 29 CFR 1910.134, any person can submit an application for approval of a new fit test protocol, and OSHA can initiate rulemaking proceedings under the OSHA Act if the application meets key criteria.

Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records 

OSHA has identified several provisions under 29 CFR 1913.10 related to internal procedures for obtaining and using personally identifiable employee medical information that need to be revised. According to OSHA, it plans to amend the regulation to improve its efficiency in implementing these internal procedures, including assigning responsibility and management of the program to OSHA’s Chief Medical Officer and removing requirements for redacting records since this is duplicative of current privacy requirements that are already strictly enforced.

Crane Operator Qualification in Construction 

Following the publication of the final crane standard in 2010, stakeholders informed OSHA that certification alone did not establish a safe enough level of experience and competence for employers to reasonably assure that crane operators are qualified to operate a crane safely on construction work sites. OSHA’s rulemaking identified criteria for employers to follow to ensure crane operators are fully qualified to operate cranes, as well as clarified issues surrounding operator certification, including the “type and capacity” requirements outlined in the 2010 rule.

Technical Corrections to 35 OSHA Standards and Regulations

According to OSHA, it is correcting inaccurate graphics, typographical errors, extraneous or omitted materials in 35 OSHA standards and regulations in 29 CFR 1904, 1910, 1915, 1917, 1918 and 1926. OSHA’s stated purpose for these changes is to reduce regulatory burdens of employers by improving comprehension of the requirements.

Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

On July 30, 2018, OSHA proposed to amend its recordkeeping regulation to remove the requirement to electronically submit to OSHA information from the OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) for establishments with 250 or more employees. Under the proposed rule, these establishments would be required to electronically submit only information from the OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). The changes remove provisions that were part of the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule that was finalized in 2016. OSHA also proposed requiring Employer Identification Number (EIN) as part of the data collection so that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can match OSHA-collected data to BLS Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness (SOII) data. This could reduce the burden on employers who are required to report injury and illness data to OSHA (for the electronic recordkeeping requirement) and to BLS (for SOII). OSHA estimates that these changes will result in a net economic cost savings of $8.75 million per year and that the loss in annual benefits, which were not quantified, will be significantly less than the annual cost savings.

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds in Construction and Shipyard Sectors 

On January 9, 2017, OSHA published its final rule on Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds in the Federal Register. On June 28, 2018, OSHA proposed to revoke the ancillary provisions that applied to the construction and shipyard sectors while retaining the new lower PEL (0.2 µg/m3) and STEL (2.0 µg/m3) for these sectors. According to OSHA, available information shows that beryllium exposure in these sectors is limited to the following operations: abrasive blasting in construction, abrasive blasting in shipyards, and welding in shipyards. There are already standards specifically applicable to these operations, including ventilation (29 CFR 1926.57) and mechanical paint removers (29 CFR 1915.34), which is why OSHA is reconsidering the need for ancillary provisions for these sectors. OSHA’s preliminarily cost-benefit analysis suggests that rescinding the ancillary provisions will result in cost savings to shipyard and construction establishments upwards of $12M and that there are limited to no benefits to the ancillary provisions such as a reduction in the number of cases of chronic beryllium disease.  

What’s Next from OSHA? 

2019 has just begun, but OSHA is moving quickly to update and finalize these rules per their unified agenda. OSHA will also be developing plans for items that have been identified as long-term actions, so it will be important for stakeholders to stay engaged.

Learn More 

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