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Regulation roundup

May 12, 2011

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With OSHA’s spring semiannual agenda expected to be published shortly, I thought it would be a good time to check out what the agency has accomplished since the previous agenda was released.

When the fall agenda was released last January (a few months late and well into winter), OSHA announced it would seek to publish several final rules:

  • The general working conditions for shipyard employment final rule was published May 2. It originally was expected in January 2011.
  • A final rule increasing fees for nationally recognized testing laboratories was issued Feb. 25. It originally was expected in December 2010.
  • The standards improvement project final rule was expected to be published in June. On May 9, it was submitted for review to the Office of Management and Budget. These reviews can take up to 90 days, if not longer, so odds are this won’t be published on time either.
  • Updates to electric power transmission standards (1910.269 and 1926, Subpart V) were scheduled to see a May publication date. These haven’t been published, and have yet to be received by OMB.
  • A final rule revising OSHA’s hazard communication standard (1910.1200) was scheduled to be published by August. OMB has not received it yet.
  • A confined spaces in construction final rule was scheduled to be published in November. OMB has not received it yet.
  • Adding a musculoskeletal disorders column to the OSHA 300 log originally was planned for final action in February, but a strong backlash from industry prompted OSHA to temporarily delay the proposal, and the agency hasn’t indicated exactly when it will publish this final rule.
  • Proposed revisions to OSHA’s cooperative programs were scheduled to see final action in September. These also have seen industry criticism, and a delay is definitely possible.
  • Several final rules regarding the procedures for handling whistleblower complaints under a variety of statutes – most unrelated to occupational safety – were scheduled to be published later this September and November.

Several notices of proposed rulemaking also were expected before the end of the year:

  • OSHA plans to publish an NPRM on changing the classification of industries from the Standard Industrial Classification system to the newer North American Industry Classification System. This originally was planned for March, but never occurred.
  • OSHA had planned to issue an NPRM for an occupational exposure to crystalline silica regulation in April. That hasn’t happened yet, and the rule is under OMB review.
  • An NPRM on modernizing OSHA’s reporting system was scheduled to be published in September.

Other items of note OSHA is working on include:

  • The proposed combustible dust standard was scheduled to begin a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel review in April, a process that takes about 120 days. I was unable to confirm if the panel has been convened.
  • A hearing on a rule to revise the walking-working surfaces and fall protection standard took place in January.

Since the publication of the fall agenda, OSHA has missed two deadlines in publishing two final rules and missed two deadlines on NPRMs. And several other rules due to be published soon seem unlikely to happen according to the schedule.

The dates given in the fall agenda are not necessarily hard-and-fast deadlines. But the dates and how close OSHA hits them can give an indication of how aggressive the agency is pursuing things. The adjustments made – if any – in the spring agenda could provide a better indication of that.

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