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OSHA standards update

Here's the latest rundown of key OSHA standards-setting activity, from the regulatory agenda published in the Federal Register May 27:

Exposure to hexavalent chromium. In December 2002, the 3rd Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals ordered OSHA to proceed expeditiously with a standard. OSHA estimates that about one million workers are exposed on a regular basis to the substance in all industries.

Confined spaces in construction. OSHA intends to issue a proposed rule addressing this construction industry hazard next year.

Exposure to ethylene oxide. OSHA has undertaken a review of the ethylene oxide standard. The findings will be published in a report available to the public in 2003.

Exposure to crystalline silica. In developing a proposed standard, OSHA is considering several options ranging from proposing comprehensive standards simultaneously for general industry, construction and maritime, to focusing the proposal on one or more specific issues, such as modernizing the construction and maritime permissible exposure limits.

Ionizing radiation. OSHA is considering amending 29 CFR 1910.1096, which addresses exposure to ionizing radiation. The OSHA regulations were published in 1974, with only minor revisions since that time. OSHA is in the process of reviewing information about the issue, and will determine the appropriate course of action regarding this standard when the review is completed.

Assigned protection factors. When OSHA published the final respiratory protection standard in 1998, it reserved for later rulemaking those provisions of the standard dealing with APFs. This rulemaking action will complete the 1998 standard. About 5 million employees wear respirators as part of their regular job duties. Due to inconsistencies between the APFs found in the current industry consensus standard (ANSI Z88.2-1992) and in the NIOSH Respirator Decision Logic, employers, employees and safety and health professionals are often uncertain about what respirator to select. A notice of proposed rulemaking is expected shortly.

Walking working surfaces and personal fall protection systems. OSHA is publishing a notice to re-open the rulemaking for comment on a number of issues raised in a 1990 comment period. OSHA is updating its regulatory analysis as well.

Standards improvement. OSHA is proposing to remove or revise provisions in its health standards that are out of date, duplicative, unnecessary or inconsistent.

Revised electrical standards. OSHA is planning to revise and update its 29 CFR 1910 subpart S-Electrical standards. OSHA will rely heavily on the 2000 edition of the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA's) 70 E standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. This revision will provide the first update of General Industry-Electrical Standard since it was originally published in 1981.

Presence sensing devices. OSHA will undertake a review of its Presence Sensing Device Initiation of Mechanical Power Presses rule (29 CFR 1910.217). The review will consider among other things, the need for the rule, the impacts of the rule, public comments on the rule, the complexity of the rule, and whether the rule overlaps, duplicates or conflicts with other regulations.

Injury and illness recording and reporting. OSHA will issue a final rule to deal with recording issues relating to hearing loss and musculoskeletal disorders for the years 2004 and beyond.

Exposure to beryllium. In November 2002, OSHA solicited information pertinent to occupational exposure to beryllium including: current exposures to beryllium; the relationship between exposure to beryllium and the development of adverse health effects; exposure assessment and monitoring methods; exposure control methods; and medical surveillance. In addition, the Agency conducted field surveys of selected work sites to assess current exposures and control methods being used to reduce employee exposures to beryllium. OSHA will use this information help decide an appropriate course of action regarding occupational exposure to beryllium.

Employer payment for personal protective equipment. OSHA only states that it is continuing to consider how to address this issue. A notice of proposed rulemaking was issued in March 1999.

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