2015: A Busy Year for OSHA

With 2014 dwindling to its last months, it's time to think about what the future will hold. And for those working in manufacturing, the 2015 rules and regulations from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) are something to follow.

This article originally appeared in the November/December print issue of IMPO.

With 2014 dwindling to its last months, it's time to think about what the future will hold. And for those working in manufacturing, the 2015 rules and regulations from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) are something to follow.

For starters, 2015 will be the year of inspections. According to the OSHA budget justification, the organization plans to increase the number of health inspections occurring in the 2015 fiscal year as a result of increased identified health issues. That said, this is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to OSHA’s full 2015 agenda.

Final Rule Stage

On January 1, 2015 one of OSHA’s newest final rules will go into effect.  This new rule will require employers to notify OSHA when an employee is killed within eight hours of the incident, and to report any work-related hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye within 24 hours. In the past, OSHA only required an employer to report work-related deaths and hospitalizations of three or more employees. Single hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye did not need to be reported.

Even those who are exempt from maintaining injury and illness records will be required to fulfill OSHA’s new severe injury and illness reporting requirements. In order to simplify the reporting process, OSHA is also developing a web portal where employers may report incidents, in addition to the standard phone reporting.

Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor endorsed these new requirements stating, “Workplace injuries and fatalities are absolutely preventable, and these new requirements will help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing them.”

In addition to altering reporting requirements, this rule will also update the list of industries that will be exempt from injury and illness record keeping. The new list is derived from injury and illness data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and will continue to exempt any employer with ten or fewer employees from having to keep records of worker injuries and illnesses.

Other important final rules to be decided this year include:

  • Confined spaces in construction. Currently the confined space regulations only apply to general industry; however, OSHA plans to issue a new final rule for confined space operations in the construction industry.
  • Cranes and derricks operator certification. OSHA has proposed to create uniform crane operator certification requirements. So far, OSHA has extended existing requirements to regulate crane operator competency by three years, to November 2017.
  • Walking, working surfaces and personal fall protection systems. OSHA plans to implement a new rule that will help to prevent slip, trip and fall hazards, as well as create clear requirements for personal fall protection systems.
  • Improve record keeping of workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA plans to issue a final rule that will require employers to electronically submit certain information from the OSHA 300 Log, OSHA 301 Incident Report, and OSHA 300A summary. As of now, employers must only give information if it is requested, but such practices are on the way out. According to OSHA, this final rule will not come into effect until approximately March 2015. It is already creating resistance, however, as many business advocates worry that new electronic posting may create privacy problems for employers. 

Proposed Rules

Besides finalizing some existing issues, OSHA has some other irons in the fire. Some key proposed rules for 2015 are:

  • Occupational exposure to beryllium. This particular issue has been gaining popularity. OSHA has indicated that they plan to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on beryllium in the coming year.
  • Amendments to the cranes and derricks in construction standard. OSHA is planning amendments to the August 2010 ruling on established standards for cranes and derricks. 
  • Updating OSHA standards for eye and face protection. OSHA hopes to present a final rule that will update its policies in regards to eye and face protection. 
  • Occupational exposure to combustible dust. OSHA is attempting to create more concise regulations around exposure to combustible dust. A small business impact review on combustible dust is required to move forward for this proposed rule but it has yet to take place, leaving a timeline for this proposal unclear.
  • Preventing spread of infectious diseases. OSHA is currently in the process of creating a standard process for protecting workers from exposure to illnesses such as tuberculosis, measles, varicella, and many more. Analysis for the proposed rule began in May under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.
  • Preventing accidents and injuries from vehicles backing up. OSHA is currently in the research stage with this proposed rule. They are compiling information on backover injuries, as well as collecting information on the hazards of reinforced steel and concrete operations. To acquire the necessary information, OSHA is conducting site visits and analysis through the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.

It is clear that OSHA has developed extremely ambitious plans for 2015 in regards to their final and proposed rules. But those are not the only things to keep your eye on this coming year. For example, it is speculated that OSHA will attempt to address the issue of blood borne pathogen prevention within the year. OSHA has also released a new education bulletin on injury recording for temporary workers for 2015. It is specifically designed to protect temporary workers in the workplace through outreach and training.

2015 may hold some disappointments as well. For example, the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. OSHA has also remained inactive in regards to permissible exposure limits; however, there has been increased discussion around the issue, which is hopeful.

So with a new year rapidly approaching, and this full agenda on the books, it will be important to keep up to date with OSHA in the coming year.  

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