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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulatory priorities for 2010 include addressing long-standing health hazards such as silica and beryllium and emerging hazards such as airborne infectious diseases and food flavorings containing diacetyl. In addition, it will focus on preventing construction accidents and combustible dust explosions, according to the agency’s semiannual regulatory agenda released Dec. 7, 2009.
Acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA Jordan Barab announced an “ambitious” agenda that includes 29 regulatory items and projects. OSHA will publish two Requests for Information, seven Notices of Proposed Rulemaking and six final standards. “Through these regulatory actions, the agency continues to ensure good jobs for everyone through a safe and healthful workplace,” Barab said via web chat.
OSHA’s 2010 regulatory projects include:
Airborne infectious diseases. OSHA intends to publish a Request for Information in March 2010 to examine how to better protect workers from occupational exposure to airborne diseases such as tuberculosis, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and influenza.
OSHA is specifically interested in the implementation of recognized infection control measures in preventing occupational infection of health care workers. The agency is seeking information on the extent to which voluntary recommendations are being followed and whether mandatory regulations would be more effective. OSHA is seeking information concerning other workers and workplaces that might have an elevated occupational exposure risk, including emergency responders, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, schools and laboratory settings.
Musculoskeletal disorders. In January 2010, OSHA intends to propose revising its regulation on Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses to restore a column on the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Log that employers will check when recording work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The MSD data from the column will help about 750,000 employers and 40 million workers track injuries at individual workplaces and improve the nation’s occupational injury and illness information data, according to the agency. The MSD column was removed from the OSHA 300 Log in 2003.
“This is not a prelude to a broader ergonomic standard,” Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said via web chat. “We are simply putting the [MSD] column back on the OSHA log as was originally intended in the 2001 issuance of OSHA’s recordkeeping standard,” she said. “[MSDs] continue to be a major problem for American workers, but at this time, OSHA has no plans for regulatory activity.”
Cranes and derricks.OSHA plans to issue a final rule on cranes and derricks in July 2010.
“The cranes and derricks standard for construction is one of our highest priorities,” Barab said.
OSHA’s existing rule, which dates to 1971, is based partly on industry consensus standards that are more than 40 years old. On Oct. 9, 2008, OSHA issued a comprehensive proposed revision of the standard. The proposed rule addresses electrocution hazards, crushing and struck-by hazards, overturning, and procedures for ensuring that the weight of the load is within the crane’s rated capacity. Additionally, the rule is intended to ensure that crane operators have the necessary knowledge and skills by requiring independent verification of operator ability.
Combustible dust. OSHA is engaged in the early stages of rulemaking to develop a combustible dust standard for general industry. The agency published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in October 2009 and was preparing to hold stakeholder meetings in December 2009.
Fall hazards. OSHA plans to issue a proposed standard in March 2010 that will update the regulations covering slip, trip and fall hazards and to establish requirements for personal fall protection systems. The rule will affect almost every non-construction worker in the United States, according to OSHA. “This is an important rulemaking. … The proposal is expected to prevent 20 workplace fatalities per year and over 3,500 injuries serious enough to result in days away from work,” Barab said.
Other health hazards; hazard communication. OSHA announced actions on several rulemakings addressing health hazards, including a rule proposal on occupational exposure to crystalline silica in July 2010. The agency plans to complete its peer review of health effects and risk assessment in January 2010, according to the agenda. Inhalation of respirable silica dust can cause lung disease, silicosis and lung cancer. Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block and other stone products, and in operations using sand products (e.g., in glass manufacturing and sand blasting). This rulemaking will update existing permissible exposure limits and establish additional provisions to protect workers from exposures to respirable crystalline silica dust.
OSHA said it would initiate a peer review of the health effects and risk assessment of exposure to beryllium in March 2010 and diacetyl in October 2010, according to the agenda.
Beryllium is a lightweight metal that has a wide variety of applications, including aerospace, telecommunications and defense uses. Chronic beryllium disease occurs when people inhale beryllium dust or fumes; it can take from a few months to 30 years to develop.
Employee exposure to diacetyl causes obstructive airway disease, including the disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease referred to as “popcorn lung.” This rulemaking will establish a permissible exposure limit as well as additional provisions to protect workers from exposure to diacetyl.
In addition, the agency will hold a public hearing on its proposal to align its hazard communication standard in February 2010. The new standard will include more-specific requirements for hazard classification as well as standardized label components which will provide consistent information and definitions for hazardous chemicals and a standard approach to conveying information on material safety data sheets.
Roy Maurer is a staff writer for SHRM.
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