First-Quarter Safety Headlines

Among noteworthy, early-2009 safety developments is a Supreme Court decision regarding release of Industrial Hygiene sampling results, which dictates

Bob Eckhardt

Among noteworthy, early-2009 safety developments is a Supreme Court decision regarding release of Industrial Hygiene sampling results, which dictates such information now must be shared with workers within five days of receipt, regardless of exposure. Formerly, release of sampling results to workers was mandated only in the event that the Permissible Exposure Limit was exceeded. Accordingly, whenever IH sampling is conducted in the plant, e.g., noise monitoring or airborne silica sampling, the industrial hygienist or contractor obtaining data must get lab results back to the company immediately for posting or informing employees by other means.

The decision was handed by the Supreme Court [Scirica, Rendell, and O’Connor], following an initial hearing in the Third Circuit of Appeals. Parties to the case included Public Citizen Health Research Group; the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union; and, Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).


Despite the reported hiring by federal government of 150,000 new employees, federal regulations will be delayed for the first half of 2009. President Obama has requested the withdrawal of any unpublished proposed or final rules submitted to the office of the Federal Register. He also stipulated that final regulations published in the Federal Register be extended by 60 days to allow a new 30-day comment period.

The rationale behind such demands is to provide time for recently appointed heads of federal agencies to review new rules. Causing further delay, the Feb. 24 confirmation of Hilda L. Solis (D-CA) as Secretary of Labor was temporarily impeded by challenges due to her refusal to comment on several controversial labor issues [see Big Labor sympathizers cling to hope for Employee Free Choice Act, Concrete Products, April 2009, p. 6]. Also postponed is implementation of the OSHA Field Operations Manual for Compliance Officers, which was revised and published under the Bush Administration.


Plant participation in one of OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs has become popular in the private sector, and many experts believe the long-term improvement in historical incident rate is directly related to cooperative efforts thus engendered. Catching the wave of government/industry alliance in regulation, OSHA is taking steps to encourage further VPP participation. The January 9 issue of Federal Register offers two new VPP protocols: mobile workforce and corporate. Additionally, greater program flexibility is introduced with modified provisions concerning Star Program Rate Reduction Plans and the One-Year Conditional Status; clarified requirements for federal agency participants performing construction activities; and, revised expectations concerning outreach and mentoring activities.

For multiple workforce participation, OSHA prioritizes making VPP a feasible goal for small, medium, and large construction employers to encourage a greater number to implement effective safety and health management systems. That initiative comes upon the heels of significant criticism contending that OSHA’s current program addresses the construction sector chiefly as fixed worksites, making widespread participation difficult.

Struggling to improve construction industry participation, OSHA in 2006 deleted the requirement for individual, comprehensive site implementation plans. Moreover, the agency promoted VPP flexibility and suitability to construction workplace conditions by having applicants develop a unique Participation Plan. That plan is limited to detailing elements of participation that deviate in substance or emphasis from traditional VPP requirements, e.g., different employee involvement strategies, baseline hazard analysis, emergency response, and evacuation procedures.

Workplace Star site reviews also will be minimized. A new schedule calls for reevaluation of mobile workforce Star participants within 18 to 24 months of initial approval, and subsequently at no greater than 36-month intervals.

When unions represent a majority of employees, OSHA requires [in the ÎDemonstrationÌ step] signed statements of support from enough unions to represent a majority of all workers. This provision Û by OSHA’s logic Û somehow differs from verifying the support of a simple majority of on-site employees. Further, program availability will be broadened to include any eligible employer whose workers move from one work location to another.

OSHA’s pilot program for corporate participation relied on a two-tier review process, designed to determine if the applicant has a VPP-quality safety and health management system in place, as well as management commitment sufficient to effect worksite-level implementation. Under revised guidelines, a participant can submit a streamlined application for a correspondingly streamlined on-site evaluation at an individual location; or, participation can be initiated by having OSHA visit a sampling of worksites within a ÎDesignated geographic areaÌ.

With the introduction of its two new protocols, OSHA has elected to restructure VPP to clarify options and procedures for all methods of participation. Each is spelled out individually to detail unique features, requirements, and evaluation processes.

In addition, OSHA no longer will require all Demonstration Program participants to maintain Star-level safety and health management systems and injury and illness performance levels. Participants will be required to adhere to the provisions of their particular demonstration.

Previously, OSHA required additional inspections when injury rates increased, also stipulating provisional status be applied when the injury rate rose during the year of an OSHA visit. Now, whenever a Star participant’s rates exceed required minimum levels, OSHA may require a two-year rate-reduction plan. A one-year conditional status also may be imposed when an OSHA on-site team identifies a deficiency in a Star participant’s safety and health management system. The provisions become effective May 9, 2009.


The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), which serves as the secretariat of the A10 ANSI Accredited Standards Committee for Construction and Demolition Operations, proposes to update ANSI/ASSE A10.9-1997 [R2004] Concrete and Masonry Work Safety Requirements. The current standard targets all on-site concrete construction and masonry work, encompassing design, erection, operation, and maintenance of aggregate-processing plants, concrete-mixing plants, and conveyances. It also includes safety requirements pertinent to prestressing by pretensioning or post tensioning, lift-slab construction, tilt-up construction, and slip forms.

ASSE is required to review, revise, or reaffirm the standards every five years Û the trigger for this review Û and has received a large number of inquiries regarding the current standard, without confirming any requests for specific standards revision. A draft of any revisions or reaffirmations should be available for public review in June, ASSE reports. Comments or proposals for review should be submitted to the American Society of Safety Engineers, Attn: Tim Fisher, 1800 E. Oakton St., Des Plaines, IL 60018-2187.