OSHA's Regulatory Agenda: What to Expect in 2019
Our Breakdown of OSHA’s Regulatory Agenda
The mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is simple in concept but difficult in practice: Making on-the-job injuries and fatalities as rare as possible. One of OSHA's major tools for reaching this aim is through regulation, establishing various safety rules and procedures that give teeth to directives and dictums.
A number of regulations were proposed in 2018, and in 2019, some of these may go from preliminary to "in effect" status. Others, meanwhile, may stay on the sidelines. Here's our breakdown of what to expect in terms of OSHA's regulatory agenda – and how it may effect your products and workplace.
OSHA Hazard Communication
Chief among the regulations that OSHA plans to update is the Hazard Communication Standard, Safety+Health Magazine reported earlier this year. Proving to be a perennial problem for businesses large and small – ranking as the second-most common workplace violation in OSHA's 2018 Top 10 violations list – hazard communication is a standard that the agency seeks to enhance in 2019. The purpose is to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS). Presently, the update is in proposed rule stage status. GHS requires more due diligence on the part of manufacturers, evaluating the chemicals more closely and labeling them appropriately by citing specific ingredients that could be injurious.
Safety Rules and Standards –
and the Current Political Climate
The same can be said for several other agenda items. These include OSHA's Emergency Response and Preparedness program, Prevention of Workplace Violence in Health Care and Social Assistance as well as Tree Care standards, Safety+Health Magazine reported. Previously, these standards were in "long-term" action status, but they have since moved to "pre-rule" stage.
While OSHA's charter is – and likely always will be – the safety and well-being of America's workforce through a combination of training, oversight, assistance and outreach, the agency has been in the midst of an overhaul since 2016, given that it's an arm of the Executive Branch. In February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that sought to reduce the regulatory scrutiny placed on businesses by reducing compliance protocols. Specifically, for every one regulation proposed, two must be cut.
Nearly three years removed from the action, however, the proposal has yet to go into full effect. In a blog post earlier this year, former OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab chalked up the so-called "2-for-1" program delay to red tape. "None of these new standards are likely to see the light of day during this presidential term," Barab wrote. "But any forward movement is always welcome."
OSHA Beryllium Standard Delayed
Used in a variety of applications – including electronics, medicines, dental labs and even sporting goods like golf clubs and bicycles – Beryllium is lightweight metal that's been linked to deadly diseases, including lung cancer, when workers are exposed for prolonged periods. Beryllium in fact leads to more cancer deaths than any other type for both men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. Because of the metal toxicity, businesses have been urged to stop using beryllium, initially required to do so no later than 2017.
But after receiving numerous petitions from various organizations stating that the quick turnaround would be overly burdensome and costly, compliance has been delayed for several major industries. For example, as noted by Safety+Health Magazine, engineering firms have until March of 2020 to ensure that changing rooms – such as bathrooms and shower stalls – have 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air or less. Certain portions of the beryllium standard, however, are already in effect.
OSHA estimates that potentially dozens of lives will be saved as a result of the updated regulations and may also help prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease per year. As many as 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium each day in approximately 7,300 establishments in the U.S. alone.
OSHA Construction Safety and NAWIC
Another focus of OSHA is construction safety, something that it will continue to prioritize in 2019. Earlier this year, OSHA renewed its alliance with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) so more people can enter the profession confident that their well-being comes first and foremost, Safety+Health Magazine reported.
One of the more vital industries to the U.S. economy, construction is also a leading sector for on-the-job injuries, frequently resulting from slips and falls on slippery and high-reaching surfaces. The sector is in the midst of an experienced worker shortage, evidenced by ever-rising home prices and record-low inventory. The OSHA Alliance Program, which launched in 2013, is a multifaceted initiative, designed to make the industry more appealing for women and provide certain assurances that crew members' well-being is prioritized. With the alliance renewed, OSHA and the NAWIC look to make construction sites more hospitable for women in a variety of ways, including sanitation, personal protective equipment and stricter enforcement regarding sexual harassment. OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Loren Sweatt said women serve a major role in the industry and deserve nothing but the best.
"Women represent a small, but growing, segment of the construction workforce," Sweatt explained. "OSHA's renewed alliance with NAWIC will continue to promote innovative solutions to safety and health hazards unique to female construction workers."
Some of these collaborative efforts will include more roundtable discussions on existing safety and health issues, more sharing of information in the rulemaking process and providing more resources that lay out some of the workplace rights employees enjoy and businesses must guarantee.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women account for less than 10 percent of the construction workforce, and there's question as to whether sexual harassment remains a problem. The most recent study that examined this issue was done back in 1999 by OSHA, which found nearly 90 percent of women in construction had been sexually harassed. The renewing of the alliance may examine whether any strides have been made in this regard.
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