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New OSHA standards coming for construction confined spaces, electrical safety

July 15, 2005
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Acting OSHA chief Jonathan L. Snare gave safety and health pros this update on agency standards-setting at the annual American Society of Safety Engineers' meeting in June:

Subpart V: Electric Power Generation

  • OSHA is proposing to revise the general industry and construction standards addressing electric power generation, transmission, and distribution work. The proposal was published in the Federal Register June 15.

  • The proposed rule makes the much older construction standard consistent with the more recent general industry standard and reflects current technology in protecting employees.

  • It also requires improved protection of employees exposed to electric arcs and improved fall protection for employees working from aerial lifts.

  • Related standards for electrical protective equipment are also revised.

    Subpart S: Electrical Safety

  • OSHA is finalizing its revision of the general industry electrical installation standard.

  • The final rule updates electrical standards to make them consistent with the most recent editions of the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) and the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace (NFPA 70E).

  • OSHA expects to publish the final rule later this year.

    Cranes and Derricks

  • The existing rule, which dates back to 1971, is based in part on industry consensus standards that in some cases date as far back as the 1950s.

  • In 2002, OSHA initiated negotiated rulemaking to update the standard. In August, 2004, the standards-setting committee completed its negotiations and agreed on a draft regulatory text.

  • The draft addresses key hazard areas associated with the use of cranes in construction, including ground conditions, crane assembly and disassembly, work near power lines and operator qualifications.

  • OSHA is now developing an economic analysis. It might need to conduct a small business review under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. If not, the agency will move directly to a proposal.

    Confined spaces

  • OSHA has prepared a draft proposal for a standard regulating confined spaces at construction sites. It's similar to the General Industry Confined Space Standard, but has these differences:

    Improved clarity — it is designed to be more easily understood by small construction employers who do not have separate safety staff.

    Hazard assessment — it outlines a step-by-step approach for the employer to use when assessing confined spaces at the construction site.

    Multiple employers — since most construction sites involve multiple employers, it addresses coordination and information sharing responsibilities with respect to the general contractor and the subcontractors.

    Enhanced safety requirements for sewer-type spaces — for example, an early warning system to guard against upstream hazards headed downstream.

  • OSHA anticipates publishing a proposed rule by the end of the year.

    Hazard communication revisions

  • OSHA considers the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals an important issue for addressing occupational health and safety in the global economy. It's been added to OSHA's regulatory agenda, with an advance notice of proposed rulemaking expected later this year.

    More regs

  • OSHA also expects to issue proposals for general working conditions in shipyards and explosives, and expects to have final action on assigned protection factors for respirators.

  • Ongoing rulemaking activities cover crystalline silica, beryllium and hexavalent chromium. OSHA plans to complete a final standard for hexavalent chromium in January 2006.
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