Aaron K. TripplerOSHA's proposed rule on occupational exposure to crystalline silica is among the items being followed closely by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), according to AIHA Government Affairs Director Aaron K. Trippler.

"This is an interesting one," said Trippler. "Everyone has been waiting for this proposal for several years. OSHA’s draft proposal for general industry and construction has been under review at OIRA since February of last year (so much for having these reviews completed within 90 days). The review has been extended several times with both supporters and opponents of the rule providing input."

Trippler predicted that the silica proposal would not be forthcoming in 2012.

He believes it unlikely that another regulatory issue of interest to AIHA, improving the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses, will see much movement in 2012.

"OSHA has said it would issue a notice of proposed rulemaking on this issue in February. The two main issues in this proposal will probably be the switch to electronic reporting of injuries and illnesses and the fact that OSHA wishes to change the trigger for reporting inpatient hospitalizations from three or more workers to only one."

A third issue, a final rule for confined spaces in construction "has only been hanging around since 2003," commented Trippler.

A confined spaces standard for general rule already exists; the proposed rule would expand it to construction.

"OSHA says it hopes to send the draft rule to OIRA in June," said Trippler. "Don’t bet on it."

Referring to the mixed reactions that usually greet the agency's release of it's semi-annual regulatory agenda, Trippler said the agenda provides both benefits and frustrations.

"While the odds of any of the issues (on the agenda) being completed are slim, it does provide the agency and stakeholders with a roadmap
to where the agency is headed. That’s the good part! The bad part is that as soon as a new administration takes over the agenda is thrown out and a new one created. And even with a two-term administration we all know how hard it is to see a regulatory agenda item finished in eight years.

He suggested shortening the list to three or four items that would allow the agency to focus its resources more narrowly. Trippler also has a novel idea: refraining from adding a new item until an existing item is finished.

"Probably wouldn’t work but it can’t be much worse than what we have now."