Full Steam Ahead for OSHA
Those who have complained about very
limited activity from OSHA and other
federal agencies over the past few years
can complain no more. This summer,
OSHA generated more activity than it had
in several previous years combined. Much
of this action is due to the commitment
of the Obama administration and agency
leaders, including Labor Secretary Hilda
Solis and Acting Assistant Secretary of
Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab.
As of early September, no date had
been set for David Michaels’ Senate confirmation hearing. Most observers believe
it won’t take place before mid-October.
Still, a quick look at current OSHA activity suggests that the agency is poised to
continue down its current path.
During the summer, OSHA moved forward on the following issues:
Silica. OSHA expedited silica rulemaking
by accepting public comments on the
Preliminary Health Effects Analysis and
Quantitative Risk Assessment at the
same time as the proposed rule. The
agency expected to complete the analysis and risk assessment in September.
After publication of the rule, OSHA will
accept public comments and submit
Acetylene. OSHA took the same approach
with acetylene as it did with silica, publishing both the proposed rule and a direct
final rule on August 11. The direct final
rule was slated to take effect unless the
agency received comments in opposition.
Voluntary Protection Program. OSHA announced changes to its VPP in response
to findings in a government report that
OSHA had not provided adequate oversight of the program and that some VPP
participants had high injury and illness
numbers. OSHA has stated on numerous
occasions that it would “thoroughly review” the program to address the problems found in the government report.
It’s possible that more action will follow.
Combustible dust. OSHA was preparing
to announce an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) based on some
of the findings from OSHA’s national
emphasis plan (NEP) on combustible
dust. OSHA had already published a
hazard communication guidance document. Some observers were concerned
that OSHA would base the ANPR only
on findings from the NEP instead of examining all industries with combustible
Hazardous chemicals. OSHA established
a Chemical National Emphasis Program
that outlines policies and procedures for
compliance officers to follow when inspecting workplaces covered by the
Process Safety Management Standard.
PPE rule. Oral arguments in the lawsuit
over OSHA’s 2008 rule establishing per-employee penalties for employers who
violate agency PPE and training requirements have been scheduled for November. In the interim, the rule stands and is
Cranes and derricks. A final rule, originally proposed in October 2008, is not
expected until sometime next year—and
some industry stakeholders say that even
this date is optimistic.
NEP on recordkeeping. The NEP will review low-rate reporting in high-rate industries and examine incentive programs.
Diacetyl. The final small-business report
on diacetyl did not decide whether OSHA
should base a diacetyl rule on a PEL or
non-PEL approach. The report recommended that the agency consider exempting employers with minimal diacetyl
exposures and those that use the chemical naturally. In the meantime, NIOSH
started writing the Diacetyl Criteria Document and hoped to have a draft available
for review next year. This document will
include a recommended exposure limit
and guidance for controls.
Fall protection. OSHA planned to rescind
a compliance directive on fall protection
for its steel erection standard.
Control banding. NIOSH has published
Qualitative Risk Management and Management of Occupational Hazards: Control Banding. For more information about
control banding, see the article beginning
on p. 43.
The Senate version of the OSHA reform
bill (the Protecting America’s Workers
Act) was introduced in August. The Senate and House versions are identical,
which suggests that the Senate will allow
the House to take the lead on the issue.
As for timing, it’s hard to say when anything might take place.