OSHA: Proposed Rule with 18 Amendments

OSHA releases 18 proposed revisions to its recordkeeping, general industry, maritime, and construction standards as part of its Standards Improvement Project-Phase IV (SIP-IV)

In the October 4, 2016 Federal Register, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a proposed rule with 18 amendments to its safety and health standards. The majority of the revisions affect the construction standards. The revisions proposed as part of SIP-IV are intended to remove or revise outdated, duplicative, unnecessary, and inconsistent requirements. Public comments will be accepted through December 5, 2016.

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Three standards are proposed to be updated to align with current medical practices. These include a reduction in required x-rays, updated pulmonary function testing, and updates to the table used for the decompression of employees during underground construction.

Additional changes would update the consensus standard incorporated by reference for signs and devices used to protect workers near automobile traffic, revise the requirements for roll-over protective structures, updates for the storage of digital x-rays and the method of calling emergency services to allow for the current use of technology, and revise the lockout/tagout standard due to a court ruling.

Finally, in order to minimize the threat of identity theft, OSHA proposes removing the requirement for employee social security numbers on exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and other records that previously required social security numbers.

To clarify the recordkeeping requirement for determining whether hearing loss is work-related or not, OSHA proposes to include a cross-reference to the requirements for determining whether an injury or illness is work-related, in order to make clear the standard that physicians and other licensed health professionals should use.

In response to the GMC Delco decisions, the Sixth Circuit held that the lockout/tagout standard did not apply where a startup procedure warned workers servicing it that it was about to start. The court found that the 10 to 12 step procedures warned the workers, and therefore the startup was not “unexpected.” OSHA is proposing to remove the term “unexpected” from the applicability section, which requires the standard applies to servicing and maintenance operations “in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment, or the release of stored energy could cause injury to employees” (emphasis in original).

OSHA originally intended the standard to apply to workers servicing or maintaining equipment that they had themselves locked out, and so an unexpected energization or startup was unintended or unplanned for by the servicing employee. OSHA believes that warning devices are insufficient to protect against hazardous energy and places the onus on the servicing employee to avoid injury. By removing “unexpected,” OSHA intends to make clear that all equipment servicing activities that have energization, startup, or stored energy hazards are covered by the lockout/tagout standard.

OSHA intends to remove the requirement for periodic chest x-rays from its standards for inorganic arsenic, coke oven emissions, an acrylonitrile. OSHA does not intend to remove the requirement for baseline chest x-rays in these standards. OSHA is proposing to allow the use of digital radiography for these standards and for its three asbestos standards and two cadmium standards.

OSHA’s cotton dust standard is also slated for revision. OSHA intends to update the lung function testing requirements for the standard to align with current practices and technology.

In OSHA’s maritime sanitation standard, proposes removing feral cats from the definition of vermin that are subject to a vermin-control program.

In the construction medical services and first aid standard, OSHA proposes requiring employers to post the latitude and longitude of the worksite or other location-identification information for sites where 911 does not have automatic-location capability. OSHA also proposes requiring employers to ensure the communication system they use to contact ambulance services is effective.

Additionally, the construction standard is being amended to change “threshold values” to “permissible exposure limits” as these are OSHA standards, not ACGIH values.

OSHA is further refining the standard for 29 CFR 1926.55 to change “shall be avoided” to “[a]n employee’s exposure . . . must at no time exceed the exposure limit given for that substance,” to make it clear that the requirement is mandatory, and not suggestive. Appendix A will be classified as Table A to make clear that the table is an integral part of the standard.

OSHA is removing the construction standard’s process safety management standard, and simply replacing it with a cross-reference to the general industry standard.

Regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) in the construction standard, OSHA proposes making it clear that, even for smaller-sized workers, workers must be provided with PPE that fits them properly.

For clarity, OSHA proposes to revise the minimum breaking-strength requirement for lifelines to 5,000 pounds, consist with the requirements for lanyards and vertical lifelines.

In order to avoid confusion, OSHA is proposing an update to the references to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to the 2009 edition, including revisions 1 and 2.

To simplify compliance with the handling, storage, use, and disposal of construction materials, OSHA is proposing to exempt single-family residences and townhouses from the requirement to post safe load limits for storage area floors.

OSHA’s construction excavation standard is being revised by removing the phrase “that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling into excavations,” but would retain the language “excavated or other materials or equipment.”

For diesel-powered engines on mobile equipment in underground construction, OSHA proposes to allow employers to use current MSHA approved equipment. Equipment purchased before the effective date of the final rule would be able to comply with the existing requirements in 29 CFR 1926.800(k)(10)(ii).

For decompression tables in underground construction, OSHA proposes replacing the current tables with the 1992 French Air and Oxygen decompression tables.

For rollover protective structures, OSHA proposes removing its test procedures and performance requirements, and replace them with references to the underlying consensus standards.

OSHA is proposing to remove the construction standard that references the general industry coke oven standard. This standard does not adequately represent the exposures of construction workers, and has not been used to cite employers since 1997. Therefore, OSHA believes it can eliminate the standard, and if necessary, cite construction employers under the general duty clause.