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OSHA gears up for raft of safety guideline rollouts


ATLANTA — The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration will have a busy regulatory agenda during the second half of 2016, including the planned publication of anti-retaliation and health and safety program management guidelines, according to the head of OSHA.

The final anti-retaliation guidelines, a draft of which was published in December 2015, will “hopefully” be released in December, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels told attendees of the American Society of Safety Engineers annual conference in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The guidelines will outline the key components of an effective anti-retaliation program, including ensuring leadership commitment, fostering an anti-retaliation culture, implementing a system for responding to reports of retaliation, conducting anti-retaliation training and monitoring progress and program improvement.

OSHA sees retaliation in many industries because the agency enforces the anti-retaliation provisions of not just the Occupational Safety and Health Act, but various federal statutes such as the Clean Water Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, he said.

“We see workers retaliated against for raising concerns about their safety, their co-workers' (safety) and the safety, health and well-being of the public,” Mr. Michaels said. “We have some new materials on how to (prevent retaliation) in a positive way.”

Separately, the final version of OSHA's voluntary health and safety program management guidelines is expected to be published in September, with a version specifically geared toward the construction sector issued shortly thereafter, Mr. Michaels said.

“This is something we hope you all become evangelists (about) and get them out there,” he said. “This is just guidance. We're not going to enforce this, but this is the way we can have that impact that we need to have.”

The guidelines were last updated in 1998, but the new edition will go from six to seven core elements, adding provisions related to coordination and communication on multiemployer worksites because many worksites have employees of multiple organizations, contractors, subcontractors, independent contractors and temporary workers.

“Unless there's coordination between those employers, those workers are at high risk of injury and death,” he said.

The agency is also planning to finalize its slips, trips and falls proposed rule in the next few months and is beginning the groundwork for a noise in construction proposed rule.

“We want your input on that, so please help us,” he told ASSE members.

There are several other items on the agency's radar, including addressing tree care hazards, with a planned meeting on the topic on July 13 at OSHA headquarters in Washington.

“We see fatalities almost every week of workers involved in tree care (and) landscaping, for lots of reasons,” he said. “They're untrained. They're not working safely. The equipment is wrong. And they're killed. We're going to launch a regulatory effort to prevent tree care (injuries) because that's a high-hazard industry.”

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