On Safety

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OSHA’s agenda vs. reality

June 15, 2015

OSHA’s latest regulatory agenda was published a few weeks ago, and it lists several rules that are scheduled to be released soon. But will that actually happen?

Below are a few of the more major rules, and when they may be expected.

Notice of proposed rulemaking:

Final rules:

Despite the somewhat optimistic agenda, we’ve seen this many times before, only to see the rules delayed.

Although the agenda suggests a rule on beryllium could be released at any point, the rule has been under review by the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for the past nine months. This is 3 times longer than OIRA is supposed to take when reviewing rules. And although that amount of time is still well short of the more than two years the proposed rule on silica spent under OIRA review, some stakeholders are nonetheless aggravated.

“It’s really frustrating to see a rule fall into the regulatory black hole that has the support of public interest groups, labor and business,” Keith Wrightson said of OIRA’s beryllium review.

Wrightson, Public Citizen’s worker safety and health expert, told me the delay is not from a lack of desire from OSHA, however. OSHA administrator David Michaels has long championed stricter beryllium exposure levels.

Instead, Wrightson suspects that politics is to blame for the holdup, just as it was believed to be behind the silica rule’s delay. The administration could be wary of political consequences, including the Republican Congress attaching a rider on OSHA’s budget to block the rule.

Despite challenges and delays, Wrightson expects the beryllium rule to be issued under Michaels’ tenure, given the OSHA chief’s strong efforts. Otherwise, Wrightson said, it would be “such an embarrassment.”

Another rule Wrightson believes has a real chance of being released is the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule, which would essentially modernize OSHA’s reporting system by making it electronic. Again, this is something Michaels has backed, calling on the need to “bring OSHA into the 21st century.”

“There’s no reason why we can’t have electronic filing of OSHA records,” Wrightson said. “The people who lobbied against the rule ... they want to keep the agency in the dark ages.”

But will these rules, along with silica and others, actually be issued anytime in the near future? We’ll do what we always do: Wait and see.

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

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