According to OSHA’s latest semiannual regulatory agenda, released May 23, the agency plans to issue a final rule on confined spaces in 2014. The regulatory agenda lists the priorities of the administration and the rulemakings they expect to release this year; however, OSHA is not required to adhere to the timeline.
According to the agenda, OSHA plans to release a final rule on confined spaces in August 2014. OSHA issued a rule in the early 1990s to protect employees who enter confined spaces for the general industry, but did not extend it to construction because of the unique characteristics of the industry’s worksites. A 2007 settlement forced OSHA to issue a separate proposed rule for construction workers in confined spaces.
ABC and other construction groups weighed in the proposal, arguing that OSHA had not demonstrated that the general industry standard was not working for construction, and stated that the adoption of the proposed rule would actually reduce employee safety rather than increase it. ABC recommended that OSHA incorporate existing standards instead of adopting a new standard.
On Nov. 8, 2013, OSHA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require employers to submit specific injury and illness data electronically to OSHA on a quarterly or annual basis that would be posted in an online publicly searchable database. Under the rule, establishments with 250 or more employees will be required to submit injury and illness records on a quarterly basis to OSHA. Establishments with 20 or more employees in industries with high injury and illness rates (construction), will be required to submit a summary of their work-related injuries and illnesses electronically once a year.
ABC and more than 900 members submitted comments to OSHA requesting it withdraw the proposed rule. ABC pointed out that OSHA’s proposed rule exceeds the authority delegated to the agency by Congress and does nothing to achieve its stated goal of reducing injuries and illnesses. In addition, employer groups and the ABC-led Coalition for Workplace Safety (CWS) expressed serious concerns over the proposal in writing and at an OSHA public meeting. OSHA plans to issue a final rule in March 2015.
OSHA issued a proposed rule September 12, 2013, that would drastically lower the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of crystalline silica for the construction industry. The proposal also would require contractors to implement engineering controls and follow several “ancillary” provisions, such as exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and the establishment of regulated areas.
ABC and more than 600 members submitted comments to OSHA requesting it withdraw the proposal. ABC and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) pointed out in the comments that the agency has not met its burden of demonstrating that the proposal is technologically and economically feasible. In addition, the ABC-led CISC testified in front of OSHA March 24 on a proposal. OSHA is allowing those who participated in the hearing to submit post-hearing comments by July 18.
Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2)
Surprisingly, OSHA has deprioritized its controversial Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) proposal, moving it to “Long-Term Action,” which agencies reserve for items under development but for which no regulatory action is foreseen until publication of the next regulatory agenda (expected in October 2014).
Based on public statements from OSHA, I2P2 would require employers to implement internal safety programs that “find and fix” workplace hazards on a rolling basis under penalty of enforcement. If implemented, the I2P2 proposal could result in significant costs and compliance burdens and could lead to “double-dip” citations (once under existing rules, and once under the new requirements), in addition to negatively impacting employers that already have effective safety and health programs.
OTHER UPCOMING PROPOSALS, FINAL RULES AND LONG TERM ACTION
OSHA also plans to move forward with proposed and final rules on a range of other issues of importance to the construction industry.
Amendments to the cranes and derricks in construction standard
Proposed Rule July 2014
Clarification of employer's continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness
Proposed Rule August 2014
Vehicle backover injuries and fatalities
SBREFA Panel August 2014
Updating OSHA standards based on national consensus standards eye and face protection
Direct Final Rule September 2014
Walking working surfaces and personal fall protection systems (slips, trips, and fall prevention)
Final Rule October 2014
SBREFA Panel December 2014
Occupational injury and illness recording and reporting requirements--musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) column
Long Term Action