OSHA Rules on Emergency Response, Workplace Violence Remain Stalled
OSHA rulemaking activities related to emergency response and workplace violence remain in the pre-rule stage on the agency’s fall 2019 regulatory agenda, which was released in November. OSHA previously acknowledged that current agency standards do not address the full range of hazards or concerns currently faced by emergency responders and do not reflect “major changes” in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment. According to the latest regulatory agenda, the agency is still considering updating these standards. The next step in the federal rulemaking process, convening a panel to consider an emergency response standard’s potential impact on small businesses, was originally scheduled to take place in October 2018. The previous regulatory agenda pushed that step back to May 2019, while the new agenda states that a panel will be convened in August 2020. The projected date for convening a small-business panel on an OSHA standard focused on the prevention of workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance has been delayed again until January 2020. OSHA first published an RFI in December 2016 to gather information on workplace violence and prevention strategies from healthcare employers, workers, and other subject matter experts. A broad coalition of labor unions and National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the U.S., separately petitioned OSHA for a standard to prevent workplace violence in healthcare. OSHA granted the petitions in January 2017. More information about agency actions related to this rulemaking is available in the regulatory agenda. In late November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, or H.R. 1309. The bill would require the Department of Labor to promulgate an occupational safety and health standard to require certain employers in the healthcare and social service industries to develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. As this issue of The Synergist went to press, H.R. 1309 was headed to the Senate, where its fate was less certain. For more information, view the entire fall 2019 agency rule list for the Department of Labor.