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OSHA about to release final rule to streamline standards and reduce employer burdens (5/31)

May 31, 2011
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OSHA last week announced the forthcoming release of a final rule that streamlines and simplifies standards while reducing employer burdens – in line with an executive order issued by President Obama on Jan. 18 entitled, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review.”

"The final rule is the third in OSHA's Standards Improvement Projects initiative that periodically reviews OSHA regulations with the goal of improving and eliminating those that are confusing, outdated, duplicative or inconsistent," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "OSHA estimates that the final rule, without reducing employee protection, will result in annual cost savings to employers exceeding $43 million and significant reductions in paperwork burden hours."

The rule will update OSHA's standards and identify requirements for revision based on an agency review, comments from the public and recommendations from an Office of Management and Budget report (Regulatory Reform of the U.S. Manufacturing Sector, 2005). The agency says it builds on the success of SIP-Phase I published June 18, 1998, and SIP-Phase II published Jan. 5, 2005.

The new rule will result in several changes to OSHA's existing respiratory protection standard, including aligning air cylinder testing requirements for self-contained breathing apparatuses with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, clarifying that aftermarket cylinders meet National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health quality assurance requirements and clarifying that the provisions of Appendix D, which contains information for employees using respirators when not required under the standard, are mandatory if the employee chooses to use a respirator.

Other changes to result from the new rule will include updating the definition of the term "potable water" to be consistent with the current Environmental Protection Agency standards instead of the former and outdated Public Health Service Corps definition, removing the outdated requirement that hand dryers use warm air because new technology allows employers to use hand-drying products that do not involve hot or warm air and removing two medical record requirements from the commercial-diving standard because that standard no longer requires medical examinations.

Updates also will include deleting a number of requirements for employers to transmit exposure and medical records to NIOSH, thus saving NIOSH significant costs to store and maintain the records. According to NIOSH, these records did not serve a useful research purpose. The slings standards also will be updated and streamlined by requiring that employers use only slings marked with manufacturers' loading information.

There will not be any new requirements set by this rule, so employers will be able to comply with it immediately. Regulatory text on the SIP-Phase III final rule is expected to be published soon in the Federal Register.

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