OSHA Announces Five Rules for 2011

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to publish five final rules in 2011 as well as moving forward on a proposed regulatory initiative called the Illness and Injury Prevention Program (I2P2).

In a web chat held January 2011, David Michaels, Ph.D., assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, and other OSHA staff updated participants on the agency's progress toward completing goals stated on its most recent regulatory agenda and plans for 2011. The regulatory agenda for the entire Department of Labor can be seen at http://www.dol.gov/regulations..

In 2010, Michaels said, OSHA published final or interim final rules on cranes and derricks and two whistle-blower regulations. In addition, it completed the hexavalent chromium remand direct final rule and the methylene chloride study review. OSHA published proposed rules for walking and working surfaces and its standards improvement project as well as a request for information on infectious diseases.

In 2011, OSHA plans to publish five final rules:

  • Hazard Communications and Standards (August).
  • Confined Spaces in Construction (November).
  • General Working Conditions for Shipyards.
  • Electric Power Transmission.
  • Standards Improvement.

Michaels said that "improving access to information establishes a solid foundation for making workplaces safer." The agency will focus on making workers more aware of the hazards of dealing with certain chemicals, he said, through the final rule on Hazard Communications and Standards and by other means.

"It is time to try a different approach to regulating employee exposure to hazardous chemicals," OSHA staff wrote. "Rather than using formal rulemaking, which has failed in the past, OSHA is considering programmatic approaches to updating the [permissible exposure limits]. We are also looking at new ways to proceed, and we are currently in the process of selecting 10-15 chemicals to begin targeting through our enforcement efforts."

The most important issue on the agenda, OSHA staff said, is the I2P2 regulatory initiative. "We believe this will have the greatest impact in terms of preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities," the staff wrote. "The next step in the rulemaking process for I2P2 is the SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act) process, which is scheduled for June 2011."

OSHA staff stated in the chat that the "find and fix" process behind the I2P2 initiative had been "embraced by thousands of employers across the country, and is very similar to standards currently in place in California and several other states.

In answer to a viewer's question, OSHA staff said that they expected to revise the Form 300 log to reintroduce a column to denote musculoskeletal disorders starting in January 2012, following a review by the Office of Management and Budget.

Another nonregulatory initiative that OSHA has launched is an education campaign asking employers to prevent work-related distracted driving by prohibiting workers from texting while driving: "OSHA's message to all companies whose employees drive on the job is that it is their responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear policy against texting while driving. Companies are in violation of OSHA law if by policy or practice they require texting while driving or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or if they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their jobs."

Beth Mirza is senior editor for HR News. She can be reached at Beth.Mirza@shrm.org.

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