focus on: Labor Department regulations

18 April 2008

The information gathered in the rulemaking process indicated that employees exposed to Hexavalent Chromium Cr(VI) well below the current permissible exposure limit were at increased risk of developing lung cancer. Occupational exposures to Cr(VI) may also result in asthma, and damage to the nasal epithelia and skin. Consequently, OSHA proposed to lower its permissible exposure limit (PEL) for hexavalent chromium and for all Cr(VI) compounds in construction, shipyards, and general industry from 52 to one microgram of Cr(VI) per cubic meter of air as an 8-hour time weighted average. OSHA also proposed other ancillary provisions for employee protection such as preferred methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping. Written comments were accepted through January 3, 2005, and public hearings were held in Washington, D.C. from February 1 through February 15. OSHA estimates that a final rule, expected early this year, will prevent an average of 44 to 167 cases on cancer per year, and will have monetary benefits of $25 million to $701 million per year.

Employer Payment For Personal Protection Equipment

Generally, OSHA standards require that protective equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPE), be provided and used when necessary to protect employees from hazards that can cause them injury, illness, or physical harm. In 1999, OSHA proposed requiring employers to pay for PPE, with a few exceptions. The Agency continues to consider how to address this issue and reopened the record in July 2004 to get input on issues related to PPE considered to be a “tool of the trade.” The comment period ended July 23, 2004. Final action is expected in March 2006.

Walking Working Surfaces And Personal Fall Protection Systems (1910)

New technologies and procedures have become available to protect employees from these hazards since OSHA proposed a rule (55 FR 13360) in 1990 addressing these hazards. The Agency has been working to update these rules to reflect current technology. OSHA published a notice to reopen the rulemaking for comment on a number of issues raised in the record for the Notice of Public Rulemaking or related to technological advances. As a result of the comments received on that notice, OSHA plans to develop a new proposal by October 2006 that will reflect correct information, as well as re-assess the impact.

Hearing Conservation Programs

OSHA issued a section 6(b)(5) health standard mandating a comprehensive hearing program for noise-exposed workers in general industry in 1983. However, no rule was promulgated to cover workers in the construction industry. A number of recent studies have shown that many construction workers experience work-related hearing loss. In addition, the use of engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment to reduce exposures to noise is not extensive in the industry. OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to gather information of the extent of the problem in different trades in this industry, current practices to reduce this hearing loss, and additional approaches and protections that could be used to prevent such loss in the future. Work continues on collecting and analyzing information to determine technological and economic feasibility of possible approaches.

Lead In Construction (Section 610 Review)

On June 6, OSHA began a review of the Lead in Construction Standard (29 CFR 1926.62) in accordance with the requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act and section 5 of Executive Order 12866. The review considers the continued need for the rule; impacts of the rule comments received from the public; the complexity of the rule; whether the rule overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with other Federal, state or local regulations; and the degree to which technology, economic conditions or other factors may have changed sine the rule was last evaluated. The review is expected to end in September 2006.

• Preventing Suffocation/Explosions In Confined Spaces

In January 1993, OSHA issued a general industry rule to protect employees who enter confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146). This standard does not apply to the construction industry because of differences in the nature of that industry. In discussions with the United Steel Workers of America on a settlement agreement, OSHA agreed to issue a proposed rule to extend confined-space protection to construction workers appropriate to their work environment. OSHA intends to issue a proposed rule addressing this construction industry hazard this year.

Updating osha based on national consensus standards

In the 30 years since the adoption of national consensus standards as OSHA standards, the organizations responsible for these standards have issued updated versions. However, in most cases, OSHA has not revised its regulations to reflect later editions of the consensus standards. OSHA standards also continue to incorporate by reference various consensus standards that are now outdated and, in some cases, out of print. The Agency has undertaken a multi-year project to update these standards. A notice describing the project was published in the Federal Register on November 24, 2004 (69 FR 68283), along with a direct final rule and notice of proposed rulemaking on the first set of standards to be addressed. The direct final rule has been withdrawn because a significant adverse comment was received, and a final rule base on the NPRM has been prepared. The next set of standards also is in preparation.

• Standards Improvement

OSHA is continuing its efforts to remove or revise duplicative, unnecessary and inconsistent safety and health standards. Phase I was published on June 18, 1998 and Phase II on January 5, 2005. The Agency believes such changes can reduce compliance and the paperwork burden associated with a number of its standards without diminishing employee protections. An advance notice of proposed rulemaking will solicit input from the public on rules to address in Phase III.


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