OSHA Updates

Sneak peek: the Biden administration’s standards priorities for OSHA

OSHA recently released its semiannual regulatory agenda for Fall 2020.

With the administration about to change hands, several “long term” actions on the agenda will likely be accelerated by the new administration. These include putting an MSD column on the 300 Log to record ergonomic-related disorders, a rule on infectious diseases, a rule for drug testing programs and safety incentives, and an updated rule on process safety management.

That’s not all. OSHA-watchers believe notices of proposed rule-making (NPRMs) will be issued for:

  • Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard;
  • Communication Tower Safety;
  • Update to the Hazard Communication Standard;
  • Powered Industrial Trucks Update;
  • Lock-Out/Tag-Out Update;
  • Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds in Construction and Shipyard Sectors.
  • Welding in Construction Confined Spaces;
  • Drug Testing Program and Safety Incentives Rule;
  • Personal Protective Equipment in Construction;
  • Powered Industrial Trucks Design Standard Update;
  • Walking Work Surfaces Update; and
  • Mechanical Power Presses Update

OSHA announced rulemaking action in the “pre-rule stage” for: 

  • Emergency Response;
  • Prevention of Workplace Violence in Health Care and Social Assistance; and,
  • Blood Lead Levels for Medical Removal

Will OSHA update its emergency response standard?

OSHA currently regulates aspects of emergency response and preparedness, but they do not address the full range of hazards or concerns currently facing emergency responders, and other workers providing skilled support, nor do they reflect major changes in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment.

OSHA pressured to prevent workplace violence in healthcare

OSHA has gathered information on the issue of workplace violence in health care and social assistance, and voluntary guidelines were published in 1996. A 2014 update to the guidelines empowered the agency to use of the 5(a)(1) “general duty clause” in enforcement cases involving workplace violence in health care. A broad coalition of labor unions and the National Nurses United are demanding that OSHA issue a permanent standard preventing workplace violence in healthcare.

Demand grows for an OSHA standard to control spread of infectious diseases

Employees in health care and other high-risk environments face long-standing infectious disease hazards such as tuberculosis (TB), varicella disease (chickenpox, shingles), and measles (rubella), as well as new and emerging infectious disease threats, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and pandemic influenza. Health care workers and workers in related occupations, or who are exposed in other high-risk environments, are at increased risk of contracting TB, SARS, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), and other infectious diseases that can be transmitted through a variety of exposure routes.

OSHA is examining regulatory alternatives for control measures to protect employees from infectious disease exposures to pathogens that can cause significant disease. Workplaces where such control measures might be necessary include: health care, emergency response, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, and other occupational settings where employees can be at increased risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. A standard could also apply to laboratories, which handle materials that may be a source of pathogens, and to pathologists, coroners’ offices, medical examiners, and mortuaries.

Where does OSHA stand on drug testing and safety incentive programs?

OSHA recently clarified, through a memorandum to the field, that it does not prohibit post-incident drug testing or safety incentive programs. The agency might change regulatory language to reinforce its current position on implementing post-incident drug testing and safety incentive programs.