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DOL’s regulatory agenda stays the course

July 8, 2011

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The Department of Labor’s newly released semiannual regulatory agenda offers a mix of rules that are staying on track or have been delayed.

Several OSHA rules originally scheduled to see final action later this year are still scheduled to do so, including confined spaces in construction (November), cooperative agreements (September), and two whistleblower protection revisions (both in November). Three other whistleblower protection revisions are set to see an interim final rule in September. The injury and illness prevention program rule’s Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review panel also is on schedule.

However, several rulemakings have been delayed varying degrees, with the combustible dust proposal perhaps being the most notable. Originally, a SBREFA review was expected to begin this past April, but now it is scheduled for December. The rule to add a musculoskeletal disorders column to the 300 log also saw a significant delay, but the delay was actually announced several months ago, so it’s not surprising to see. According to the agenda, OSHA will be “analyzing the record” concerning the rule.

Other delays:

  • An economic peer review of the beryllium standard originally was scheduled to be completed in May; the new agenda indicates this was to have been done by June. At press time, it was not immediately known if the review was completed.
  • Final action on the hazard communication rulemaking has been pushed back one month, from August to September.
  • A notice of proposed rulemaking on the silica standard originally scheduled this past April is not out yet, but is expected any day. Hearings on the NPRM are scheduled for October.
  • A final rule on electric power transmission and distribution – electrical protective equipment was pushed back four months to September.

Several rules are new to the agenda and are being rushed into promulgation. Two whistleblower protection revisions are set to receive an interim final rule in April 2012. In August, a direct final rule is expected to make the new cranes and derricks in construction rule applicable to underground construction and demolition standards.

Two other rules receiving a direct final rule are updates to existing standards based on more recent national consensus standards – acetylene in August and personal protective equipment in October. Both these rules are based on older consensus standards and have previously been updated.

About half of the major rulemakings for the Mine Safety and Health Administration are more or less on time. The proposed silica standard – originally scheduled to be issued in July – is expected in August, and the pattern of violations NPRM was issued Feb. 2 and stakeholder meetings are expected this November.

Two other big rules from MSHA seem to be fairly delayed at this point. A safety and health management program rule originally was scheduled to have its NPRM issued last month; now the agency will be hosting additional stakeholder meetings in September to gather more information. An NPRM revising MSHA’s criteria and procedures for assessing civil penalties has been delayed from a missed March date to next month.

Both OSHA and MSHA are scheduled to conduct webchats this coming week on their agenda. OSHA’s webchat is on July 11, and MSHA’s webchat is July 14. These chats are always a good place to get a bit more insight into the agencies’ priorities and ask why some important rules have been delayed. Hopefully the agencies provide some good answers.

Check out the September issue of Safety+Health where I’ll analyze this latest regulatory agenda and go over what was discussed during the webchats.

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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