OSHA plays big in recent spending package Email
Sunday, December 21, 2014 02:45 PM

OSHA rulemakingsThere are several points of interest related to OSHA in the spending package recently passed by Congress.

Many of the changes - whether taking affect or anticipated – could impact the green industry.

Highlights are noted below.

  • Report language directs OSHA to notify the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations 10 days prior to the announcement of any new National, Regional or Local Emphasis Program including the circumstances and data used to determine the need for the launch of a new Program. This could be a significant development, and reflects the distrust of the agency’s motives dating back to the National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping and the report they were forced to file with the Appropriations Committees that showed how OSHA had misused federal funds for their recordkeeping. 

  • The report also urges OSHA to consider all currently available technology as it develops any new standard for workers' exposure to silica dust. Hopefully this sets the table for further appropriations treatment of this rulemaking.

  • OSHA’s funding level increased by a mere $540,000 to a total of almost $553 million, despite a requested increase of $12.8 million.

OSHA Rulemakings: Taking effect, Underway and Anticipated
OSHA’s regulatory agenda will be the primary focus going forward in 2015 and for the rest of the administration’s time in office.

  • New Reporting Requirements for hospitalizations, amputations, and loss of an eye
Beginning January 1, employers will be required to report to OSHA the hospitalization of ANY employee (instead of the current 3 employee or more threshold) hospitalized for work-related reasons. Employers will be required to report to OSHA within 24 hours of the hospitalization, or within 24 hours of finding out about the hospitalization. Reporting of fatalities is unchanged and still must be done within 8 hours. It also adds a new requirement for reporting amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours of the workplace incident. Employers will have the choice of reporting by phone or using an interactive website OSHA has promised to create.
One spokesperson has indicated that the reports employers will have to file will now be posted on the internet.
  • Electronic reporting of injuries and illnesses (including supplemental NPRM reworking)--formal title: Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
On November 8, 2013, OSHA published a proposed rule to amend its current recordkeeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of illness and injury records employers are required to keep under Part 1904. On August 14, 2014, OSHA published a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to explore adding provisions that will make it a violation for an employer to discourage employee reporting. 

  • Revised silica standard--formal title: Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica
On September 12, 2013, the proposed revised silica dust standard was published in the Federal Register. Administrative hearings were held beginning on August 18, 2014. All comments, and post-hearing comments have been submitted. According to the Regulatory Agenda, the next action is stated only as analyzing comments ending June, 2015.
  • Undoing court decision in Volks--formal title: Clarification of Employer's Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness
OSHA will be proposing to amend its recordkeeping regulations to “clarify” that the duty to make and maintain accurate records of work-related injuries and illnesses is an ongoing obligation. In reality, what OSHA will be doing is overriding a decision of the D.C. Circuit Court that said the language in the statute that said OSHA could not issue a citation for a recordkeeping violation after six months meant six months.

  • PELs Request for Information

OSHA is reviewing its overall approach to managing chemical exposures in the workplace and seeks stakeholder input about more effective and efficient approaches that addresses challenges found with the current regulatory approach. This review involves considering issues related to updating permissible exposure limits (PELs), as well as examining other strategies that could be implemented to address workplace conditions where workers are exposed to chemicals. Comments are due April 8, 2015 and this will be a significant comment activity. While there is broad agreement that the PELs are too low and need to be updated, the debate, as OSHA has launched it, will be about how far OSHA can go without doing full blown rulemaking—this will be a procedural debate.

Information courtesy Tom Delaney, Director of Government Affairs, Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

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