There’s no lack of OSHA issues for the new year

Here’s what OSHA has on the drawing board for future standards. Many of these issues have been in the pipeline for years. Let’s see which ones the new leadership chooses to push — and to ignore.

HIGH VISIBILITY

Injury and illness recordkeeping: OSHA officials say final revisions will be rolled out after the ergonomics standard is issued, and employers will be expected to follow the new recordkeeping rules starting in 2002.

Safety and health programs: Requirements for setting up workplace programs based on OSHA’s voluntary guidelines face an uncertain future after being derailed by the ergo express.

Tuberculosis: A final rule setting requirements to reduce occupational exposures to TB is on the boards. PPE payment: Clarification of employers’ responsibilities to cover the costs of personal protective equipment has been delayed by the push to get out the ergo standard.

Bloodborne pathogens: New legislation will require OSHA to amend this rule to promote the use of safer medical devices to prevent needle sticks and other sharps injuries to health care workers.

Indoor air quality: In 1994, OSHA issued a proposal that required employers to write IAQ compliance plans, inspect ventilation systems, and designate separate smoking areas. The idea was met with a storm of protest that pushed any further action to the far back burner.

CONSTRUCTION

Safety standards for scaffolds: A long-term action item.

Field sanitation facilities: OSHA is considering revisions to the sanitation standard that would include washing facilities, gender-separate and lockable toilet facilities, and (where other OSHA standards require change rooms), gender-separate and lockable change facilities. Hearing loss prevention: OSHA wants to gather information on the extent of noise-induced hearing loss among workers in different construction trades, current practices to reduce hearing loss, and additional approaches and protections that could be used to prevent such loss in the future.

Confined spaces: One-million construction workers are exposed to the hazards of confined space entry each year, and OSHA intends to issue a proposed rule addressing this construction industry hazard.

Lockout: Four-million workers annually may be exposed to hazardous energy during repair and servicing of machines and equipment in construction workplaces. OSHA intends to issue a proposal to address this hazard.

EXPOSURES

Permissible exposure limits: OSHA has decided to propose new PELs for four chemicals — carbon disulfide, glutaraldehyde, hydrazine, and trimellitic anhydride. A broader goal is to develop a system for updating hundreds of air contaminant limits. The agency might use an advisory committee to review issues related to the PELs process.

Metalworking fluids: Workers exposed to these fluids are at risk of developing respiratory diseases, including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, occupational asthma, and lung cancer and dermatoses. OSHA plans to propose a standard in 2001.

Beryllium: Rulemaking has been started to reduce exposures to these metal alloys used in dental appliances, golf clubs, non-sparking tools, and wheel chairs.

DID YOU KNOW…

Process safety management: There are plans to add reactive chemicals currently not covered by the standard, and to clarify OSHA's intent to cover flammable liquids stored in atmospheric tanks that are connected to a process. Another proposal would add chemicals to the list of highly hazardous chemicals in the PSM standard that were not originally included, but were included in EPA’s Risk Management Program rule.

Respiratory protection: OSHA expects to complete rulemaking on assigned protection factors — numbers that estimate the degree of performance of the various classes of respirators — in 2001.