DOL, OSHA Release Spring 2018 Regulatory Agenda

The U.S. Department of Labor has released its Spring 2018 Regulatory Agenda, which provides a basic roadmap of potential OSHA developments.

The agenda lists 20 potential rules separated into three stages: pre-rule, proposed rule, and final rule. Those in the pre-rule stage are the furthest away from completion and those in the final rule stage are the closest.

Four proposals in the final rule stage include:

  • Standards Improvement Project IV. This would remove or revise “duplicative, unnecessary, and inconsistent safety and health standards” to ease the burden on employers, with most of the revisions to come in construction standards.
  • Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol. OSHA will evaluate three new possible fit-testing protocols to determine if they should be added to the rule as approved testing methods.
  • Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records. The administration is seeking to revise its internal procedures for OSHA personnel when they obtain and use personally identifiable medical information.
  • Technical Corrections to 36 OSHA Standards and Regulations. OSHA is correcting inaccurate graphics and typos in three dozen standards in 29 CFR 1904, 1910, 1915, 1917, 1918 and 1926.

According to Safety and Health Magazine, four other standards that were previously considered “long term action” also moved onto this edition of the agenda. Emergency Response and Preparedness, Prevention of Workplace Violence in Health Care and Social Assistance, and Tree Care standards are in pre-rule stage. An update to the Hazard Communication Standard is in the proposed rule stage.

With the recent delay of the beryllium standard, that regulation moved from the final rule stage back into the proposed stage. The Crane Operator Qualification in Construction standard also moved backward to the proposed stage.

The complete regulatory agenda, which also contains schedules for dozens of other government agencies, can be viewed by clicking here.

It’s National Safety Stand-Down Week!

From May 7 through 11, 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is recognizing the 5th annual National Safety Stand-Down, an event that encourages employers to take time special time out to recognize fall hazards at the workplace.

Year in and year out, falls from elevation are a leading cause of construction fatalities, accounting for 370 of the 991 construction deaths in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Furthermore, lack of fall protection annually tops OSHA’s list of the most cited safety violations.

There are no specific requirements for what needs to be done to participate in the Stand-Down. Employers can offer additional training, a toolbox talk, extra equipment inspections, or safety demonstrations.

If you’re at a loss of what to do for your Stand-Down, how about watching SCT’s Focus on Fall Protection video series? It features four videos that each drill into a different topic relating to fall protection. Check out the YouTube Playlist below.

OSHA also offers a number of free resources at its Safety Stand-Down website including a fall hazards quiz,  downloadable posters, hardhat stickers, infographics, and personalized certificates of participation. Many of the resources are offered in both English and Spanish.

Aside from OSHA, other participating organizations include NIOSH; the Center for Construction Research and Training; the National Occupational Research Agenda; OSHA-approved state plans; the American Society of Safety Engineers; and the American Society of Safety Engineers, among others.

Beryllium OSHA compliance date pushed yet again

The OSHA compliance date for the agency’s general industry beryllium standard has been pushed until December 12, 2018, as a provision of a settlement agreement between OSHA and groups with concerns about certain ancillary provisions in the final rule.

OSHA and the four petitioners — the National Association of Manufacturers, AirBorn Inc., Materion Brush Inc., and Mead Metals Inc. — signed the agreement on April 24, 2018, according to a report from Safety & Health Magazine.

On May 4, 2018, OSHA announced a direct final rule that revised a few parts of the rule. Specifically, it clarified the definitions of Beryllium Work Area, emergency, dermal contact, and beryllium contamination, as well as provisions for disposal and recycling, according to an OSHA news release. 

The new OSHA compliance date of December 12, 2018, is in place for all but two provisions in the rule: change rooms/showers and engineering controls. Those provisions have compliance dates of March 11, 2019, and March 10, 2020, respectively.

OSHA’s beryllium final rule was first published on January 9, 2017, and went into effect May 20, 2017. Enforcement of the standards was most recently slated to begin on March 12, 2018, after being pushed back from March 2018.

According to OSHA’s estimates, about 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium. The updated regulations included in the final rule is projected to save 90 people from beryllium-related disease, and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year.

Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in electronics and the defense industry, among others. Overexposure can cause serious health risks, including incurable chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

Senators Introduce Legislation to Address Occupational Chemical Risks

Two U.S. senators have introduced legislation that aims to improve the chemical disclosures in pesticides and personal care products.

U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced S.2722, also called the Environmental Justice Right to Know Act.

A major part of the bill seeks to improve conditions for salon workers. The law would require that the Department of Labor and OSHA create safety data sheets for cosmetics often used in hair and nail salons, according to 

These safety data sheets would be translated into additional languages spoken by many industry workers including Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and Nepali.

Additionally, NIOSH would need to research ventilation improvements to create better air quality for these workers.

Farm workers would also be impacted, as OSHA and the EPA would be tasked with researching the potential harmful effects of pesticides.

Moreover, OSHA would develop online training materials aimed at salon employees about the specific hazards they face, as well as make the topic a target for the Susan Harwood Training Grant program.

“Workers at nail salons, hair salons, and other industries that handle harmful chemicals and pesticides have the right to be informed about the products they are exposed to in order to ensure the health and safety of their communities,” said Senator Harris in a news release. “Everyone deserves the ability to breathe clean air, drink clean water and know what’s in the products that are around them every day.”

OSHA corrects electronic injury submission error

OSHA has issued a correction for its electronic injury tracking service, and now requires “all affected employers to submit injury an illness data in the Injury Tracking Application (ITA) online portal, even if the employer is covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of their own state rule.”

The corrective measure follows a review of the recordkeeping requirements established in 2016’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” regulation. As previously reported, at the time of implementation, employers in certain states who met the requirements for ITA submission but were covered under an OSHA-approved State Plan that had not yet adopted electronic reporting were not required to submit data to ITA.

As of now, those state plans — which included California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming — do not exempt affected employers from submitting their injury and illness data online.

“OSHA immediately notified State Plans and informed them that for Calendar Year 2017 all employers covered by State Plans will be expected to comply,” according to an April 30, 2018, Department of Labor press release. “An employer covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of a state rule must provide Form 300A data for Calendar Year 2017.  Employers are required to submit their data by July 1, 2018.”

Employers who are covered by State Plans that have not adopted a state rule to submit electronic injury and illness data will not face any retroactive requirement for Calendar Year 2016, according to the same release. The only required data is that for Calendar Year 2017.

OSHA offers free resources for National Safety Stand Down

Two weeks ago we told you about the National Safety Stand Down happening May 7-11, 2018, and gave you a few links to our fall protection related videos for some Tool Box Talk inspiration. This week we’re bringing you some free OSHA resources that dropped online for employers to use while hosting their own stand down events.

The purpose of the National Safety Stand Down initiative is to reduce the occurrences of falls in the construction industry. Falls from elevation are one of the Fatal Four, which are the top causes of death among construction workers. The Fatal Four include: falls, caught in/between, struck by object, and electrocution.

According to OSHA, eliminating the fatal four would save 631 workers’ lives each year. From the most recent data available (calendar year 2016), the Fatal Four break down looks like this:

  • Falls – 384 out of 991 total deaths in construction (38.7%)
  • Struck by Object – 93 deaths (9.4%)
  • Electrocutions – 82 deaths (8.3%)
  • Caught in/between – 72 deaths (7.3%)

OSHA and other health agencies, like NIOSH, have developed resources for employers to use while hosting their own National Safety Stand Down events at their job sites. Resources featured on the official website include guidance on ladder safety and scaffolding, as well as Tool Box Talk ideas and videos. Many of the resources provided by OSHA are available in both English and Spanish.


Department of Labor Secretary Acosta Defends Budget

Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta appeared before a Senate Subcommittee on April 12 discussing the Department of Labor’s upcoming budget. The DOL houses a number of agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, passed by Congress in late March, allocated about $12.2 billion to the DOL, including $549 million for OSHA in fiscal year 2019, a slight decrease from FY 2018’s allocation of $552.8 million, according to Safety and Health Magazine. 

The upcoming budget does call for a $6.1 million increase for federal OSHA enforcement and an additional 42 full-time equivalent compliance safety and health officers.

During the meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Mr. Acosta supported OSHA’s electronic recordkeeping rule while still recognizing concerns about privacy.

“We are looking at methods where we can obtain this data while at the same time respecting the privacy of individuals,” he said. “We are looking at methods where we can obtain the data en masse without individual identifying information because once we receive the data, it can eventually become subject to disclosure.”

The recordkeeping rule has recently been in the headlines as OSHA reported that it received about 214,000 submissions via its online Injury Tracking Application, when it expected to receive more than 300,000. Companies with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and companies with 20-249 employees that are in certain high-risk industries are required to submit their forms through this online application.

Mr. Acosta also stressed his belief in the important role that enforcement of standards plays in protecting American workers.

“Laws matter. They have been passed by Congress. They are the laws of the land, and they need to be enforced,” he said. “The men and women at the Department of Labor need the resources to enforce them.”

Protecting America’s Workers Act reintroduced in Senate

The Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAW Act) has been resuscitated by six senators in an attempt to update 1970’s Occupational Safety and Health Act by broadening its coverage.

The PAW Act has had a protracted life in Congress. Since its introduction in April 2004 by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), it has been introduced 15 times with none of the bills making it beyond the committee stage, according to Safety and Health Magazine.

Introduced March 22, the latest iteration’s abstract (S. 2621) on defines its purpose as “A bill to amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to expand coverage under the Act, to increase protections for whistleblowers, to increase penalties for high gravity violations, to adjust penalties for inflation, to provide rights for victims or their family members, and for other purposes.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

“We need to provide greater protections for workers and their families so no one gets hurt. Everyone should be able to go to work knowing they will come home at the end of the day in the same condition and without experiencing any threat to their health and safety,” said Senator Baldwin in a press release. “It is unacceptable that workers face unsafe working conditions or risk losing their job if they file a complaint. This legislation will improve the rights of employees, foster the safety of their workplaces and hold accountable the bad actors who break the law and do harm to American workers.”

As the law currently stands, an employer faces a risk of being charged with, at most, a misdemeanor “when a willful violation of OSHA leads to a worker’s death,” according to the same press release. The most recent version of the PAW Act aims to authorize felony penalties against “employers who knowingly commit OSHA violations that result in death or serious bodily injury…”

The new version of the bill also seeks to update the current civil penalties in OSHA cases, and sets a minimum penalty of $50,000 for a worker’s death caused by a willful violation.

Co-sponsors of the newest Protecting America’s Workers Act include Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

OSHA to focus on companies that did not comply with electronic recordkeeping

OSHA inspectors have been ordered to focus on the many companies that failed to comply with the administration’s new electronic recordkeeping rule for workplace injuries and illnesses.

According to multiple news websites,  on February 21, 2018, OSHA’s Director of Enforcement Thomas Galassi issued a memorandum that outlined the group’s policy for those who have not complied with the regulation. During any on-site inspection, compliance officers are to ask whether the business has electronically filed its 2016 300A form prior to the December 15, 2017 deadline. If they have not submitted and were required to, an other-than-serious citation will be issued.

If the establishment can provide proof that they tried to submit the form but were unable to do so, a citation may not be issued.

The memo provided compliance officers with three points of guidance:

  • If the employer failed to submit, but immediately abates during the inspection by providing a paper copy of records, an Other Than Serious citation will be issued with no penalty
  • If the employer failed to submit its 2016 data, but shows it has already submitted its 2017 data, an Other Than Serious citation will be issued with no penalty
  • If the employer does not produce the records, an Other Than Serious citation will be issued with the appropriate penalty

OSHA stated that it has until June 15, 2018, to issue these citations.

Additionally, OSHA previously reported that it expected about 350,000 forms to be submitted through its online Injury Tracking Application, but only received 214,000.  Companies with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and companies with 20-249 employees that are in certain high-risk industries are required to submit their forms through this application.

If you or your company need assistance in complying with the electronic recordkeeping rule, contact the experts at SCT today. Call us at 1-800-204-1729 or complete the contact form below.




Congress pushes for OSHA Workplace Violence standard

House Democrats have introduced legislation to induce the Secretary of Labor to create an OSHA Workplace Violence standard for health care facilities. The Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act aims to reduce instances of workplace violence within the health care industry, which has a higher than average rate of workplace violence at inpatient worksites.

The move toward creating a workplace violence standard isn’t new. This latest national push follows a 2014 initiative launched by California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) which took effect in 2017.

For years, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries has illustrated that workers in the health care and social assistance industries see more fatal injuries resulting from workplace violence than any other category. In 2016 alone, there were 42 fatalities in the health care and social assistance fields that were caused by violence and other injuries by persons or animals. (That includes violence perpetrated by persons, self-inflicted injury, and attacks by animals.)

Of those 42 fatalities, 17 occurred in nursing and residential care facilities.

The Cal/OSHA regulations require all health care employers in California to develop and issue plans to prevent workplace violence  by April 1, 2018. The state’s legislation was backed by the California Nurses Association (CNA) and National Nurses United (NNU).

Though lacking an OSHA workplace violence standard, the agency does have general information and loose guidelines for assessing and handling workplace violence on its website.

The House legislation, introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) on March 8,  was applauded by the NNU in a press release.

“Right now, health care facilities are not doing enough to prevent these violent incidents. Under the proposed federal standard, hospitals would need to assess and correct for environmental risk factors, patient specific risk factors, staffing and security system sufficiency,” said Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president, in the release.

“There are a number of interventions that can reduce violence in the hospital. For example, affixing furniture and lighting so they can’t be used as weapons, maintaining clear lines of site between workers while they are caring for patients, and providing easy access to panic buttons or phones to call for help,” Burger said. “It is imperative that nurses, doctors, and other health care workers, along with security staff and custodial personnel, are all involved in the development and implementation of these plans.”