After what seemed like months of inactivity, OSHA has suddenly moved forward on many issues. Below, I’ve summarized several rules in progress and offered predictions on their outcomes. REPORTING SEVERE INJURIES In October, OSHA announced a final rule that would require employers to notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. The rule will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, for workplaces under federal OSHA jurisdiction. States that have OSHA state plans are expected to follow suit.
Under the revised rule, employers must notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours, and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, or loss of an eye within 24 hours. Previously, OSHA’s regulations required an employer to report only work-related fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees.
The revised rule also provides employers with the opportunity to report incidents electronically and updates the list of industries exempt from the reporting requirements.
Outlook: Industry has some concern about this rule, but I expect it to move forward as planned. SILICA Following extensive public hearings, OSHA is reviewing thousands of comments to determine whether the agency should make changes to its proposed silica rule. Insiders say it may take the agency another six to nine months simply to review all of the material. The proposed rule would reduce the exposure level in general industry and construction, and lower the action level.
Outlook: Notwithstanding the considerable work ahead, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this move toward becoming a final rule before the end of the Obama administration. The White House has supposedly given OSHA the go-ahead. INFECTIOUS DISEASES RULE After many delays, OSHA seems prepared to move forward with the small business review panel on this proposal. According to the agency, the most recent delays were necessary to ensure representation of all affected healthcare sectors on the panel. The agency had hoped to provide materials for panel review by mid-October.
Outlook: This is only the start of the process, but I’m hopeful that this rule will move forward. BERYLLIUM The OSHA proposed beryllium rule has been sent to the White House for review. Insiders believe the proposed rule is in line with the labor/industry proposal to lower the permissible exposure limit (PEL) to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air and require exposure monitoring.
Of course, White House approval is only the beginning of the process. Once the rule goes back to OSHA, the hearing and public comment period will begin. Even though labor and industry seem to have reached agreement, some stakeholders believe the PEL should be even lower and that the proposal should include construction in addition to general industry.
Outlook: A final rule is probably a year or more away, but at least it’s moving. OSHA RFI In October, OSHA published a request for information (RFI) regarding the issue of updating the PELs in the Federal Register. This is a major step forward for AIHA and other stakeholders who have long pushed for this update.
The RFI is one of several recent signs that OSHA is serious about updating the PELs. In May 2012, the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health recommended that OSHA request the White House to issue an Executive Order updating the PELs for federal agencies and departments. Then, in October 2013, OSHA published annotated tables on its website that compared various exposure limits. Now, with this RFI, OSHA is taking the next step.
Outlook: These efforts don’t mean that the PELs will be updated any time soon. However, this is the first time in many years that an administration has taken an interest in this issue. ELECTRONIC REPORTING RULE This proposed rule would require employers to collect and record information on certain workplace injuries and illnesses and to report the information to OSHA electronically.
Outlook: I don’t expect this proposed rule to move forward.
Outlook for OSHA Rules
BY AARON TRIPPLER