OSHA Continues to Outpace
BY AARON TRIPPLER, DIRECTOR, AIHA GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
April and May brought a flurry of activity at OSHA as the agency attempted to
renew its commitment to occupational
safety and health issues. On May 11, the
agency released its semi-annual regulatory agenda, the first under the Obama
administration, Labor Secretary Solis, and
Acting Assistant Secretary Barab. The
agenda includes more issues than in the
past. However, only time will tell if these
issues come to any sort of conclusion.
Below is a brief discussion of some of the
issues on OSHA’s agenda that might be of
high interest to AIHA:
Occupational Exposure to Crystalline
Silica (listed in the pre-rule stage on the
agenda). In late April, the agency released
a guidance document on controlling silica exposure in construction. AIHA was
notified in late May that the peer review
stage for the proposal has been initiated.
Occupational Exposure to Beryllium
(pre-rule stage). OSHA has taken a small
step back on this issue. Previously, the
agency stated that it was in the process
of proposing a rule on beryllium. Now,
OSHA lists the issue in the pre-rule stage
and says it will initiate peer review by the
end of 2009.
Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl (pre-
rule stage). OSHA hopes to move on this
issue by the end of the summer. In early
May, OSHA sent the proposed standard to
small business representatives for SBREFA
(Small Business Regulatory Fairness Act)
review. According to reports, the agency
presented two separate draft standards—
one would set a PEL for the substance,
and the second would rely on process-
specific requirements. Reports indicate
that the small business panel can’t agree
on whether a PEL or non-PEL approach is
the best way to address the issue.
The Department of
Labor has officially
announced plans to
withdraw the “secret
rule” on risk assess-
ment proposed in the
waning days of the
Combustible Dust (pre-rule stage). Labor
Secretary Solis stated that OSHA will
issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking and convene stakeholder
meetings on this issue to evaluate possible regulatory methods by December. This
action follows introduction of legislation
in the House of Representatives that
would require OSHA to issue a final rule.
AIHA submitted a letter of support for
Confined Spaces in Construction (
proposed rule stage). Many stakeholders expected this rule to be completed in 2008,
but it has continually been delayed.
Cranes and Derricks in Construction
(proposed rule stage). This issue has also
been around for some time, and many
stakeholders expected it to be finalized by
now. The comment period was extended,
and the record was to be closed in June.
Hazard Communication (proposed rule
stage). This important rule involves the
Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
OSHA expects to move quickly on this
issue. In late May, AIHA was notified that
the GHS proposal had gone to the Office
of Management and Budget for review.
Hearing Conservation Program for Construction Workers (listed under long-term
actions). AIHA wrote to OSHA requesting
that the PEL for noise in construction be
reduced from 90 dBA to 85 dBA. AIHA
also recommended adopting an exchange
rate of 3 dBA from the current 5 dBA.
To receive a copy of the entire OSHA
agenda and the links to each of these issues, contact AIHA government affairs.
Other OSHA Activity
Aerosol transmissible diseases (ATD).
The state of California recently approved
the nation’s first comprehensive standard
on ATD. Many stakeholders are now calling for OSHA to do the same, and acting
OSHA chief Barab suggested that the
agency is considering the possibility.
Stakeholders are also calling for the
agency to take more action to protect
health care workers against the H1N1
virus. The agency responded to an earlier
request by stating that it would use its
general duty clause to enforce existing
pandemic flu guidance.