Osha Aims To Consolidate Emergency Standards

To revise and consolidate emergency response elements in six primary standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) currently is


To revise and consolidate emergency response elements in six primary standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) currently is seeking comments, primarily from public emergency responders. The six standards encompass Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HazWoper); personal protective equipment general requirements; respiratory protection; permit-required confined space; fire brigade; and, blood-borne pathogens.

The agency will be considering response and preparedness for common emergencies such as fire, medical, and other rescue situations, as well as large-scale emergencies including natural and intentional disasters. Chief among OSHA’s areas of interest are personal protective equipment (PPE); training and qualifications; medical evaluation and health monitoring; and, safety management. The agency also will be evaluating classifications of personnel serving either as emergency responders or skilled support at such events, plus the range of activities constituting emergency response and preparedness.

Provisions for three of the standards cited may have a bearing on the concrete products industry: (1) blood-borne pathogens first-responder training and PPE; (2) HazWoper, if site personnel are trained for cleanup of hazardous material spills involving diesel, gasoline or concrete mix additives; and, (3) confined space entry for site rescue. Confined space entry permits normally include provisions for local fire department emergency response, but only if a fire department is immediately available. When the fire department is unavailable, some producers provide their own personnel, who have maintained emergency response training, and supply the required retrieval equipment.

Because OSHA will evaluate the types of personnel who would constitute emergency responders or skilled support employees, as well as the range of their activities and preparedness, producers may want to voice concerns regarding operations personnel trained and made available for emergency response, while their primary occupation lies elsewhere. Yet, limited response, e.g., such measures as first-aid for cuts and retrieval from confined spaces involving nontoxic atmosphere and minimal physical hazards, would be less worrisome than the drastic responses demanded of EMS personnel. Notable exceptions to limited hazards, however, include confined-space engulfment and welding inside bins or silos.

In the event that emergency responder training becomes too costly, two options are available to reduce the need for plant-trained emergency personnel. First, confined space hazards can be eliminated or minimized to the point that the space is reclassified as a nonpermit confined space. Second, local emergency responders can be contracted, as well as equipment for on-site availability.

Additionally, other key emergency regulations may be included in the group of standards under consideration. The most notable among these are the emergency-action and fire-prevention plans for fixed facilities cited in 29 CFR 1910.38. Incorporation of this regulation into a new emergency response standard would require extensive specialized planning.

The public may submit comments electronically at the federal government’s electronic Rulemaking Portal, www.regulations.gov; or, by sending three copies to the OSHA Docket Office, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. Submissions less than 10 pages may be sent by fax to 202/693-1648. Comments must include the agency name and the docket number for this Request for Information, Docket No. S-023B. The Federal Register notice includes more guidance on submitting comments.

Additional information also can be obtained by contacting Carol Jones, acting director, Office of Biological Hazards, OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance, Room N-3718, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington D.C. 20210, 202/693-2299.



U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao issued a statement in early November announcing a 6 percent improvement for 2006 in incident rates for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work (lost time); and, OSHA recordable injuries and illnesses overall are down by 4 percent from 2005. Released by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the report provides detailed data showing a continued decline in the rate and number of workplace injuries and illnesses (requiring recovery away from work) in private industry.

Secretary Chao also claimed, We now have new data on selected injury and illness rates by occupation, gender and age group that helps us identify those employers and employees who most need our assistance. How OSHA will pursue these identified groups is unclear, although new initiatives may be anticipated.

What is clear is the agency’s attribution of credit for the incident rate reduction: The U.S. Department of Labor’s programs to keep America’s working men and women safe and healthy are achieving the desired results Û more men and women are going home safe and whole at the end of the workday. However, we will not rest on this positive news; we will continue to work to ensure the safety and health of the nation’s employees through compliance assistance; partnerships and cooperative programs; and, strong, fair, and effective enforcement.

OSHA’s immodest claim of direct responsibility for the improvement discounts other possible factors, such as the influence of safety associations, trade groups, industry efforts, national attitudes, and economic issues. To the agency’s credit, however, incidence rates did begin to decline in 1994, following major OSHA concessions regarding various cooperative programs with industry groups, citation-exempt initiatives such as Star (i.e., exemption provided that identified standards violations are corrected), as well as industry and association alliance agreements.


The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released its Publication No. 2007-122, Simple Solutions: Ergonomics for Construction Workers. A voluntary guideline applicable to all construction personnel, it covers issues of particular interest to workers installing or erecting concrete products. The publication is available at no cost at www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-122/.

Among topics related to concrete construction and installation, the following issues directly impact concrete producers and builders:

  • Fastening tools to reduce stooping
  • Motorized concrete screeds
  • Rebar-tying tools
  • Kneeling creepers
  • Adjustable scaffolding for masonry work
  • Lightweight concrete block
  • Preblended mortar and grout bulk delivery systems
  • Skid plates to move concrete-filled hoses
  • Reduced vibration power tools

Some of the topics address systems useful as well to block and precast/prestressed concrete producers. OSHA has not indicated any intention to promulgate new ergonomics standards based on the NIOSH publication. However, OSHA’s continued ergonomics-related efforts have led to the issuance of a draft guideline on prevention of musculoskeletal injuries in shipyards.


NIOSH is the research branch of OSHA: as such, it does not fall under the Department of Transportation. Flirting with jurisdictional boundaries between the two agencies, however, NIOSH has elected to conduct a survey of truckers at 40 truck stops nationwide. NIOSH is currently seeking public comments for the survey through Jan. 2, 2008, at www.cdc.gov/niosh/review/public/110/default.html.

The goal of the survey is to collect information on truck-driver health, sleep disorders, fatigue, working conditions, and nonfatal injuries. Accordingly, NIOSH is seeking comments to design and test a survey instrument that will provide self-reported data targeting these issues among driver respondents. Moreover, NIOSH aims to determine the prevalence of health conditions and risk factors; characterize working conditions, causes of injury, as well as outcomes, and health behaviors; and, explore correlations among health status, individual risk factors, and occupational exposures related to work environment, scheduling and hours of service.

Primary questions NIOSH aims to tackle include:

  1. Is the prevalence of health conditions and sleep disorders greater in the truck-driver population than in the general population?
  2. How are drivers’ working conditions associated with health status and behaviors?
  3. Are sleep disorders, fatigue, and the working environment contributors to poor health outcomes, highway crashes, and injuries?
  4. What are the work tasks and environments in which truck drivers are injured?

Yet another NIOSH study will be initiated to collect data on trucker body dimensions and truck cab dimensions to identify opportunities for new cab design ergonomic standards.