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.

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.

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.

 

ABCs of Safety: I is for Incident Investigation

Nobody wants a near miss or severe injury to occur at their workplace, but an important piece of a successful safety program is examining why these events occur.

In this week’s ABCs of Safety video, we highlight the importance of a thorough Incident Investigation. Because the vast majority of workplace injuries and deaths are preventable, investigating past occurrences is a major key in preventing future incidents from happening.

Not sure how to conduct an incident investigation of your own? Contact the safety experts at SCT, whose decades of OSHA experience make them the best in the business. Call us at 1-800-204-1729 or fill out the contact form below.








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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.








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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.”

Beryllium Enforcement Starting in May

OSHA’s updated beryllium standard has been a long time in the making, but a beryllium enforcement date has finally been set.

The administration announced that enforcement of the final rule will begin on May 11, 2018. The enforcement date had previously been scheduled for March 12, 2018. The extended timeframe ensures that stakeholders are aware of their obligations and that OSHA provides consistent instructions to its inspectors, according to an OSHA press release.

Back in January 2017, OSHA announced new comprehensive health standards addressing beryllium exposure in all industries. After seeking feedback from stakeholders, technical updates to the January 2017 General Industry Standard are being considered by the agency.

These updates, according to the press release, “clarify and simplify compliance with requirements.”

In addition to the general industry beryllium enforcement beginning on May 11, 2018, OSHA will also begin enforcement for the new lower 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit (STEL) for construction and shipyard industries.

According to OSHA, beryllium is a lightweight but strong metal used in many industries, including aerospace, medical, electronics, defense, and telecommunications. But beryllium is highly toxic, and workers who inhale it are at a higher risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer.

The new beryllium rule, which has standards for construction, general industry, and shipyards, will decrease the permissible exposure limit of beryllium to an average of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over 8 hours. A new short-term exposure limit was established at 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a 15-minute sampling period.

Until the new beryllium enforcement date, should employers fail to meet the new PEL or STEL, “OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance,” according to the release.

Respiratory health is a major area of concern for OSHA. In addition to the beryllium enforcement starting in May 2018, awareness of and enforcement for OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standards have dominated OSHA news since 2016. Check out our video below about the importance of respiratory health and silica awareness in the workplace.

Need help creating a respiratory health program at your workplace? Contact the experts at SCT by filling out the contact form below. We can guide you through the process, from initial assessment, to program development, air monitoring and training — SCT is your one stop safety shop!








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OSHA stakeholders present to Congressional subcommittee

On February 27, 2018, the congressional Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hosted a hearing entitled “A More Effective and Collaborative OSHA: A View from Stakeholders.”

In his opening statement, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) said the purpose of the meeting was to focus on “how OSHA can work more cooperatively with job creators especially in the small businesses community, to expand its compliance assistance efforts and for employers to provide the safest and healthiest workplaces possible.”

The hearing featured testimony from four witnesses: Peter Gerstenberger, on behalf of the Tree Care Industry Association; J. Gary Hill, on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); Dr. David Michaels, former Assistant Secretary for OSHA; and Eric Hobbs,  on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Gerstenberger told the committee that tree care industry has one of the 10 highest fatality rates in the U.S., with about 80 deaths annually. He also stated that while OSHA has worked with the association to improve worker safety, it hasn’t done enough and a specific safety standard is needed.

“From our perspective, federal OSHA could be most effective if it would adopt a rule specific to our industry. Here is why: a regulation will inform and empower every OSHA Certified Safety and Health Official to identify hazards and control measures unique to tree work and to intervene to prevent accidents,” Gerstenberger said.

Hill testified about the need for the expansion of small business compliance assistance because many small construction companies are confused by the existing standards.

“NAHB’s members want to ensure they are compliant with existing standards, but it is not always clear what the regulatory requirements are, especially when coupled with all of the other regulations that apply to the home building industry,” Hill said. “If OSHA’s goal is truly to ensure worker safety rather than the collection of fines, it must reorient away from its emphasis on enforcement and promulgation of new standards and focus more on compliance assistance to businesses subject to its regulations.”

Michaels, who led OSHA from 2009 to January 2017, said in his testimony that compliance programs are useful for employees who voluntarily want to protect their employees, but that clear standards and “strong, fair enforcement” are more effective in protecting workers.

Michaels also said the sentiment that safety regulations kill jobs is incorrect. “It is more accurate to call OSHA standards public health ‘protections’ because that’s exactly what they do: protect workers from preventable injuries, illnesses and death. When you hear someone talk about rolling back OSHA regulations, they’re really talking about endangering workers.”

In his testimony, Hobbs said OSHA needs to regain the trust of employers.

“For OSHA to lead the effort at improving workplace safety effectively, it must rebuild that trust. No single step or statement by the agency will do so. It will take a sustained, consistent effort,” Hobbs said. “Employers will welcome having a partner in the agency and being able to turn to it as a resource, rather than just to suffer under it as a disciplinarian.”

The submitted written testimony from each witness is available online at the committee’s website. A complete video recording of the hearing is also available on YouTube. 

OSHA releases fact sheet for General Industry Silica

OSHA has released a fact sheet about the General Industry silica standard, which will see enforcement take effect on June 23, 2018. For the past two years, silica has been a constant notice in any OSHA news update, and preventing potentially fatal silica-related diseases remains a top priority for OSHA.

While OSHA’s new silica standards for construction, general industry, and maritime became effective in June 2016, the enforcement and implementation dates were staggered to allow all industries time to adjust safety protocols and pursue additional employee training.

General industry and maritime employers must comply with all requirements of the new OSHA silica standard by June 23, 2018. The maritime and general industry silica standard requires employers to meet the following criteria:

  • Determine the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it is, or may reasonably be expected to be, at or above the Action Level (AL) of 25 μg/m³ (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m³, averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Limit access to areas where workers could be exposed above the PEL;
  • Use dust controls and safer work methods to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls and safer work methods cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers;
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica, such as use of compressed air without a ventilation system to capture the dust and dry sweeping, where effective, safe alternatives are available;
  • Offer medical exams–including chest X-rays and lung function tests–every three (3) years to workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
  • Train workers on the health effects of silica exposure, workplace tasks that can expose them to silica, and ways to limit exposure; and
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

View the full OSHA General Industry Silica fact sheet here.

There are two exceptions to the enforcement of the general industry silica standard: 1) medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the AL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020; 2) Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry must implement dust controls to limit exposures to the new PEL by June 23, 2021.

It is important to note that medical surveillance MUST be offered to employees who will be exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2018.

Update your silica safety program and employee training with SCT today! Fill out the contact form below and someone from our safety team will be in touch.








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