OSHA Delays Critical Protections as Worker Deaths Increase

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By Katie Tracy, Center for Progressive Reform

President Trump planned and then starred in his own ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, symbolic of all the safeguards for health, safety and the environment that he intends to shred while in office. This mockery of the administration’s obligation to ensure the public is protected from harm caused by corner-cutting businesses coincided with the release of the Administration’s fall 2017 regulatory agenda. What this political stunt — and the rhetoric that goes along with it — really means, however, is that Trump cares more about reducing the sheer number of regulatory safeguards than he does about evaluating the benefits those safeguards provide to our health and safety.

As with the spring 2017 iteration of the agenda, Trump makes clear he has no concern for working families. OSHA’s fall agenda includes 16 planned activities, up from 14 in the spring. Of the 16, seven are listed as in the final stages. Not one of these rules would expand worker protections.

One of the rules listed in the final category is the delay of the compliance date until Dec. 15, 2017, for an Obama-era rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. Notably, the agenda also includes a proposal to weaken provisions of this final rule.

A rule OSHA plans to finalize in the months ahead is its recent proposal to weaken the 2017 beryllium standard. In its current form, the beryllium standard is projected to save 90 workers’ lives and prevent 46 new cases of chronic disease annually. Apparently, the Trump administration doesn’t think this is a worthwhile endeavor, and so is moving ahead with revisions to the standard that will ease requirements on the construction and maritime industries by removing applicable ancillary provisions.

Another rule listed as in the final stage is a delay of the effective date for crane operator qualification requirements in the 2010 Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard, which specifies the criteria employers are to use to determine if operators are qualified to operate cranes safely on construction sites. OSHA is reconsidering certain provisions of the rule, and has decided to delay until November 10, 2018, the deadline for employers to ensure that crane operators are certified and competent to operate a crane safely.

Other rules listed as in the final stage are merely items delayed from the agency’s spring 2017 agenda. For example, OSHA is delaying by five months the date by which it expects to finalize a 2016 proposed rule to update several existing standards and paperwork requirements identified as unnecessary or duplicative. OSHA is also delaying by seven months its expected date for making technical corrections to 16 other standards.

The fall 2017 agenda also lists five actions in the pre-rule stage and four in the proposal stage. All but one of these nine actions are delays of activities listed in the spring 2017 agenda. The one remaining action—Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard—was moved from the list of Long-Term Actions back to the proposal stage where it had been for several years prior to Trump taking office. This corresponds to the delayed effective date for crane operator certifications, as noted above. OSHA now intends to issue a proposed rule amending the 2010 final standard by September 2018.

OSHA’s list of Long-Term Actions hasn’t changed significantly since the spring agenda. Although two items were moved from the list and are now in play, the list still contains eight actions that have been indefinitely delayed, many of which would target critical health and safety hazards. This means that OSHA still has no intention of moving forward on these unregulated risks to workers, such as by protecting emergency responders from hazards they encounter or protecting health care workers from infectious diseases.

What does all this regulatory inaction and delay really mean for workers? Unfortunately, it means the Administration doesn’t consider worker health and safety a priority in the near- or long-term.

It should, considering that workplace deaths are on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported the total number of on-the-job fatalities in 2016 was 5,190, a 7-percent increase over 2015, and the first time the number has reached 5,000 since 2008.

Following is a complete list of the regulatory and deregulatory actions listed on OSHA’s fall 2017 agenda. Or you can download it in PDF form here.

                                                       OSHA RULES IN PLAY
Rule Name RIN Description Fall 2017 Spring 2017
Occupational Exposure to Beryllium 1218-AB76 OSHA is continuing to push forward its proposal to amend the Jan. 2017 final rule limiting worker exposure to beryllium to ease requirements on the construction and maritime industries. The revised standard is expected to be finalized by Sept. 2018. Final Proposed
Standards Improvement Project IV 1218-AC67 OSHA is delaying by 5 months (sliding from Sept. 2017 to Feb. 2018) the date it expects to finalize its 2016 proposed rule to update several existing standards and paperwork requirements identified as unnecessary or duplicative. Final Final
Amendments to Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard 1218-AC81 OSHA has moved this item from its list of Long-Term Actions and now intends to begin action on a proposed rule to amend its 2010 final standard to make corrections and other clarifications, with a proposal expected by Sept. 2018. Proposed Long-Term Action
Communication Tower Safety 1218-AC90 OSHA is delaying by 7 months (sliding from Aug. 2017 to Mar. 2018) the date by which it intends to complete a small business review panel to consider regulatory approaches the agency ought to take to address the higher-than-average fatality rate among workers in the communication tower industry.

Note: By law, OSHA will need to initiate a new small business panel because the 90 days for completing the panel it supposedly began in Jan. 2017 has expired.

Pre-rule Pre-rule
Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol: Amendment to the Final Rule on Respiratory Protection 1218-AC94 OSHA intends to finalize a rule by Sept. 2018 that would amend the agency’s respiratory standard finalized in 1998 to incorporate new fit test protocols. Final Proposed
Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records 1218-AC95 OSHA has moved this item from its Spring 2017 list of Long-Term Actions and now intends to take steps to finalize updates to make more efficient its internal procedures on obtaining and using personally identifiable employee medical information. A final rule is expected by June 2018. Final Long-Term Action
Crane Operator Qualification in Construction 1218-AC96 In Nov. 2017, OSHA finalized an extension of the effective date of provisions from the 2010 final construction cranes standard. Final Proposed
Mechanical Power Press Update 1218-AC98 OSHA is delaying by one month (sliding from Feb. 2018 to Mar. 2018) its expected date for requesting information from the public about how it should proceed with updating its mechanical power presses standard to address the use of hydraulic or pneumatic power presses and other technological changes over the past 40 years. Pre-rule Pre-rule
Powered Industrial Trucks 1218-AC99 OSHA is delaying by one month (sliding from Dec. 2017 to Jan. 2018) its expected date for requesting information from the public about how it should proceed with updating its outdated standard on powered industrial trucks. Pre-rule Pre-rule
Lockout/Tag-out Update 1218-AD00 OSHA is delaying by one month (sliding from Apr. 2018 to May 2018) its expected date for requesting information from the public about recent technological advancements employing computer-based controls of hazardous energy that conflict with the existing lock-out/ tag-out standard. Pre-rule Pre-rule
Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Exemption Expansions for Railroad Roadway Work 1218-AD07 OSHA is delaying by two months (sliding from Oct. 2017 to Dec. 2017) its expected date for proposing revisions to its Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard to expand the exemptions for railroad roadway work as required by a settlement agreement reached in Sept. 2014. Proposed Proposed
Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal 1218-AD10 OSHA is delaying by three months (sliding from April 2018 to July 2018) its expected date for issuing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on strengthening the existing lead standard by lowering the blood lead level at which an employee may be returned to a former job. Pre-rule Pre-rule
Technical Corrections to 16 OSHA Standards 1218-AD12 OSHA is delaying by seven months (sliding from July 2017 to Feb. 2018) its expected date for making technical corrections to sixteen OSHA standards. Final Proposed
Puerto Rico State Plan 1218-AD13 OSHA is delaying by eight months (sliding from Oct. 2017 to June 2018) its expected date for proposing a rule to allow Puerto Rico to operate a state plan. Proposed Proposed
Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses (Entry 1) and (Entry 2) 1218-AD16 and

1218-AD17

OSHA finalized a delay of the compliance date on the 2016 final Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule. In a separate, related action, OSHA has delayed by two months (sliding from Oct. 2017 to Dec. 2017) its proposed rule to amend provisions of the 2016 final rule. Final/ Proposed Proposed
                                                    LONG-TERM ACTIONS
Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Recordkeeping Requirements–Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Column 1218-AC45 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely work it began in 2009 to restore the MSD column to the OSHA 300 log so that employers and workers can better track these injuries and the agency can collect better statistical data. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action
Infectious Diseases 1218-AC46 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely the development of a standard that would require employers in the health care and similarly high-risk industries to establish a comprehensive infection control program and control measures to protect workers from infectious disease. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action
Process Safety Management and Prevention of Major Chemical Accidents 1218-AC82 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely work it began in 2013 to modernize its process safety management standard to prevent major chemical disasters. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action
Shipyard Fall Protection–Scaffolds, Ladders, and Other Working Surfaces 1218-AC85 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely work it began in 2013 to determine its options for updating its existing standard on shipyard fall protection to provide more comprehensive coverage and to reflect technological developments. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action
Emergency Response and Preparedness 1218-AC91 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its plans to issue a comprehensive standard to address significant hazards to emergency response workers. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action
Update to the Hazard Communication Standard 1218-AC93 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its plans to update the agency’s hazard communication standard to maintain alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification of Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) and other countries that have adopted the GHS. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action
Tree Care Standard 1218-AD04 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its work to develop a standard for tree care operations, which it began in response to an industry petition it granted in 2008. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action
Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare 1218-AD08 OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its plan to develop a standard to prevent workplace violence in healthcare, which it initiated in response to union petitions it granted in 2017. Long-Term Action Long-Term Action

 

Originally posted here.

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