OSHA Regulatory Agenda Includes Several New Construction Standards
OSHA recently provided an overview of their Fall 2010 Regulatory Agenda to the public through a web chat. OSHA’s agenda contains regulatory priorities and the regulatory actions they want to highlight as its most important and significant. Several construction-related standards were highlighted as a priority for the agency. A summary is provided below:
Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica:
Crystalline silica is a significant component of the earth's crust, and many workers in a wide range of industries are exposed to it, usually in the form of respirable quartz. Because of the occupational disease, silicosis, which is from exposure of employees to high levels of respirable crystalline silica, OSHA is very close to publishing a proposed silica rule (NPRM). The NPRM for silica is currently in internal review, and is expected to be published this spring, followed by public hearings. The peer review of OSHA’s draft health effects and risk assessment analyses was completed last January. The passage of a silica standard will have a tremendous impact on improving worker safety and health, and thus is a high priority for the agency. OSHA’s most experienced and senior staff members have been assigned to this project in order to expedite development of the rule.
Confined Spaces in Construction:
In January 1993, OSHA issued a general industry rule to protect employees who enter confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146). This standard does not apply to the construction industry because of differences in the nature of the worksite in the construction industry. In discussions with the United Steel Workers of America on a settlement agreement for the general industry standard, OSHA agreed to issue a proposed rule to extend confined-space protection to construction workers appropriate to their work environment. OSHA estimates publishing a final rule in November 2011.
Reinforcing and Post-Tensioned Steel Construction:
Current rules regarding reinforcing steel and post-tensioning activities do not adequately address worker hazards in work related to post-tensioning and reinforcing steel. OSHA is seeking public comment on post-tensioning and reinforcing steel from professionals who work in the post-tensioning and reinforcing steel field and will consider rulemaking to prevent worker deaths and injuries related to these operations. By requesting information from professionals who work in the reinforcing steel and post-tensioning fields and other members of the public, OSHA hopes to determine whether a new rule is necessary, and, if so, what hazards need to be addressed. OSHA provided no timeframe for a proposed rule.
NIOSH reports that half of the fatalities involving construction equipment occur while the equipment is backing. Backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year. Emerging technologies in the field of backing operations include aftermarket devices, such as camera, radar, and sonar, to help monitor the presence of workers on foot in blind areas, and new monitoring technology, such as tag-based warning systems that use radio frequency (RFID) and magnetic field generators on equipment to detect electronic tags worn by workers. OSHA provided no timeframe for a proposed rule.
Injury and Illness Prevention Program:
OSHA is developing a rule requiring employers to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. It involves planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving processes and activities that protect employee safety and health. The next step in the rulemaking process for the Injury and Illness Prevention Program is the SBREFA process which is scheduled for June 2011. While the Agency is working to complete this project on an expedited schedule, at present, OSHA has not determined a specific date for publishing the Injury and Illness Prevention Program proposed rule.
The full regulatory agenda can be found here: Fall 2010 Regulatory Agenda