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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is contemplating revisions to its silica standard for the construction industry, as well as working to finalize a controversial proposal to amend its 2017 electronic record-keeping regulation, according to the latest Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions released last week.
OSHA has issued a request for information on the effectiveness of control measures not currently included for tasks and tools listed in Table 1, according to the agenda.
“The agency is also interested in tasks and tools involving exposure to respirable crystalline silica that are not currently listed in Table 1, along with information on the effectiveness of dust control methods in limiting worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica when performing those operations,” the agency said in the agenda. “OSHA intends to evaluate the available information to determine if revisions to Table 1 may be appropriate.”
Employers who follow Table 1 methods included in the silica rule are not required to measure workers' exposure and are not subject to the permissible exposure limits while those that do not use the Table 1 control methods are required to measure the amount of silica workers are exposed to see if they may be at or above the action level, use dust controls to protect workers from exposures above the permissible exposure limit and provide respirators to workers when dust controls cannot limit exposures to that threshold, according to the agency.
The silica request for information item is listed in the pre-rule stage, with information due to the agency by December.
In addition, OSHA’s proposal to amend its 2017 electronic record-keeping regulation to rescind the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA forms 300 and 301, but still require them to submit information from their Form 300A summaries is in the final rule stage. OSHA estimates that the record-keeping change will have net economic cost savings of $8.75 million per year and that the rule will be in place by June 2019.
Meanwhile, potential standards to prevent workplace violence in the health care sector, improve emergency response and preparedness and prevent fatalities in the communication tower and tree care sectors remain on OSHA’s regulatory radar.
In July 2017, several of these potential standards were moved off the Trump administration’s main regulatory agenda and placed on a long-term actions list, meaning the agency did not expect to have a regulatory action within the 12 months after publication of the agenda. However, they were moved back on to the regulatory agenda in May under the prerule stage, meaning the agency is considering taking action, according to the previous unified agenda.
The updated Unified Agenda lists regulatory actions in the prerule, proposed rule and final rule stages for OSHA.
In July 2016, OSHA started laying the groundwork for a potential regulatory standard aimed at reducing fatalities and injuries in the tree care industry, which experiences an average of 70 deaths each year. That potential standard is listed in the pre-rule stage.
In December 2016, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health recommended that OSHA expeditiously pursue a formal rule-making for an emergency responder preparedness program standard — an effort that gained new momentum after the April 2013 death of 12 emergency responders in an ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas. That potential standard is listed in the pre-rule stage.
Also in December 2016, OSHA expressed concerns about the small, but growing number of fatalities in the communications tower sector.
In January 2017, OSHA granted petitions by a coalition of labor unions to pursue a standard to prevent workplace violence in the health care sector, as employees in this industry are at disproportionately higher risk of violence than other industries. That potential standard is also listed in the pre-rule stage.
However, federal agencies wanting to issue new regulations will run headfirst into President Donald Trump’s January 2017 executive order stating that an agency may issue a new regulation only if it rescinds at least two existing regulations to offset the costs of the new regulation, experts say.
Construction employers should utilize the “grace period” that they are receiving to comply with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s silica regulation to review their programs and make sure they are taking the necessary steps to come into compliance, according to experts.