Osha Regulatory Agenda

As reported in last month’s Compliance Matters, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released its regulatory agenda, including issues


As reported in last month’s Compliance Matters, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released its regulatory agenda, including issues relevant to concrete production at pre-rule, proposed-rule, and final-rule stages, plus long-term actions. Following is a more detailed review of concrete industry-related agenda items.


Occupational exposure to crystalline silica. While OSHA has conducted various silica-enforcement, awareness, education, and emphasis programs for a number of years, it has now decided to update the standard to lower the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and/or implement a requirement for employers, mandating a written program when the possibility of silica exposures is present. The current PEL for construction (derived from ACGIH’s 1962 Threshold Limit Value) is based on particle counting technology, now considered obsolete.

OSHA will likely adopt the 50ug/m3 exposure limit recommended by NIOSH and ACGIH for respirable crystalline silica. A written silica exposure control program can be expected to require standard OSHA criteria, including exposure monitoring, training requirements, job descriptions identifying possible exposures, PPE provisions, and possible chest X-rays for health monitoring.

Cranes and derricks. OSHA plans to update the outdated 1971 standard through negotiated rulemaking. Proposed subjects for rulemaking include:

  1. Identification/description of what constitutes Îcranes and derricksÌ for purposes of determining the equipment that will be covered by the proposed rule
  2. Qualifications of individuals who operate, maintain, repair, assemble, and disassemble cranes and derricks
  3. Work zone control
  4. Crane operations near electric power lines
  5. Qualifications of signal-persons and communication systems and requirements
  6. Load capacity and control procedures
  7. Wire rope criteria.
  8. Crane inspection/certification records
  9. Rigging procedures
  10. Requirements for fail-safe, warning, and other safety-related devices/technologies
  11. Verification criteria for the structural adequacy of crane components
  12. Stability testing requirements
  13. Blind pick procedures

Excavations (section 610 reviewed). In 2002, OSHA requested feedback on whether this standard should be maintained without change, rescinded, or modified to minimize its impact on a substantial number of small entities; and, whether the rule should be changed to reduce regulatory burden or improve its effectiveness. While comments have not been published, new rulemaking proposed by OSHA in the long-term can be anticipated: what those revisions or additions may include is more difficult to predict.

Emergency response and preparedness. OSHA plans to consolidate and update emergency response and preparedness standards. Currently, emergency responder health and safety are regulated under a variety of standards, chiefly, fire brigade (29 CFR 1910.156); hazardous waste operations and emergency response (29 CFR 1910.120); respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134); permit-required confined space (29 CFR 1910.146); and, bloodborne pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030). OSHA contends that none of these regulations Û some promulgated decades ago Û were designed as comprehensive emergency response standards; consequently, they fail to address the full range of hazards or concerns facing emergency responders. Information will be collected by the agency to evaluate what action should be taken.

Hazard communication. The standard seems to vary in every country with respect to MSDS preparations and requirements for labeling, programs, and training. Since the United Nations adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in 2003, many countries are considering integration of the GHS into their national regulatory systems. To achieve consistency with GHS, OSHA is contemplating modification of its standard, an effort that would involve changing the criteria for classifying health and physical hazards, adopting standardized labeling requirements, and requiring a standardized order of information for safety data sheets.

Revision and update of standards for power presses. For the standard applying to wire mesh shears and rebar cutters, OSHA performed a review of presence-sensing device initiation (PSDI) on mechanical power presses. It determined that the current ANSI standard permits PSDI without independent validation, but includes other provisions to maintain PSDI safety. By contrast, PSDI systems are required by OSHA to be validated by an OSHA-certified third party; yet, no organization has agreed to validate PSDI installations. OSHA intends to secure this loose end in the regulation.

Based on its review of PSDI (69 FR 31927), OSHA plans to revise and update the standard on power presses, which currently covers only mechanical units. The revision will be based on the 2001 or later edition of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard on Mechanical Power Presses, ANSI B11.1. Further, OSHA is considering expanding the standard to cover other presses, such as hydraulic and pneumatic power presses, and to include the latest guarding techniques.


Confined spaces in construction. In January 1993, OSHA issued a general industry rule to protect employees who enter confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146). While the standard does not apply to the construction industry due to differences in the nature of the construction worksite, discussions with the United Steel Workers of America on a settlement agreement (for the general industry standard) prompted OSHA to issue a proposed rule extending appropriate confined-space protection to construction workers. To date, OSHA has successfully enforced the rule in construction by citing the general duty clause.

Updating OSHA standards based on National Consensus Standards. Under the OSHA act, the agency was directed to adopt national consensus standards for its use. Accordingly, some of the standards were adopted as regulatory text, while others were incorporated by reference. In the 30-plus years since their adoption by OSHA, these consensus standards have been updated by the organizations responsible for their issuance. In most cases, however, OSHA has not revised its regulations to reflect the later versions; moreover, various consensus standards that OSHA continues to incorporate by reference are outdated and, in some cases, out of print.

OSHA is now undertaking a multi-year project to update these standards. To a greater or lesser degree, the following standards will be affected by this initiative: hazardous materials, flammable and combustible liquids, general environmental controls, temporary labor camps, hand and portable powered tools and other hand held equipment, guarding of portable powered tools, welding, cutting and brazing, arc welding, and cutting.


Amendments to the final rule on respiratory protection for assigned protection factors. OSHA has begun consolidation of differing NIOSH and ANSI assigned protection factors (APFs), which describe the effectiveness of various classes of respirators in reducing employee exposure to airborne contaminants. Lacking a different APF assigned in one of its substance-specific health standards, OSHA relies on APFs developed by NIOSH in the 1980s. Many employers, however, follow more recent APFs published in an industry consensus standard, ANSI Z88.2-1992. OSHA published a table of APFs, now consistent with the ANSI standard.

Employer payment for Personal Protection Equipment. The rule establishes a uniform requirement that employers pay for all types of PPE mandated under OSHA standards, except for safety shoes, prescription safety eyewear, and logging boots. Now using the PPE acronym to cover both personal and other protective equipment, OSHA standards generally require that protective equipment (including PPE) be provided and used as necessary to protect employees from hazards that can cause injury, illness, or physical harm. In 1999, OSHA proposed to require employers to pay for PPE, with a few exceptions. The agency continues to address what is considered to be a tool of the trade, having reopened the record in July 2004 to obtain input on PPE-related issues.

Revision and update of various electrical standards. OSHA plans to revise and update its 29 CFR 1910 subpart S-Electrical Standards. In doing so, it will rely heavily on the National Fire Protection Association’s 70 E standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. The project will be completed in several stages: the first will cover design safety standards for electrical systems, while the second stage will cover safety-related maintenance and work practice requirements, as well as safety requirements for special equipment. Latest technological developments will thus be considered. OSHA has evaluated public comment submitted in response to the notice of proposed rule making (NPRM), and a final action is being prepared.


Walking and working surfaces. OSHA plans to reopen its proposed rulemaking regarding slip, trip, and fall hazards. In 1990, OSHA proposed a rule (55 FR 13360) establishing requirements for personal fall protection systems. The agency has been working to update the rule to reflect current technology. A notice was published by OSHA to reopen the rulemaking for comment on a number of issues raised in the record for the NPRM. Comments will be considered in developing a new proposal to reflect current information and in reassessing the impact.

Personal fall protection systems in general industry. Personal fall protection systems now required for construction are designed for general industry. The standard will likely follow the construction model, establishing standards for general industry workers to use approved harnesses, lanyards, and tie-off points when working at heights above either four or six feet.

Hearing conservation programs for construction workers. In 1983, OSHA issued a comprehensive hearing conservation program required for workers exposed to noise in general industry; however, no rule was promulgated to cover construction workers. OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to gather information on the extent of noise-induced hearing loss among workers in different construction trades; current practices to reduce this loss; and, additional approaches and protections that could be used to prevent such loss in the future. Collection and analysis of information continues to determine the technological and economic feasibility of possible approaches.