On Tuesday, October 4, 2016, OSHA issued a request for comments concerning a number of rules that, if changed, will have wide-ranging impacts on employers in all sectors, but most especially on employers in the construction sector.

The following is a brief description of the 18 proposed rule changes.

  1. Recordkeeping Compliance Directive: If an employer uses a physician and other licensed health care professional (PLHCP), the PLHCP must follow the rules set forth in Section 1904.5 when determining if a hearing loss is work-related. As a result of this change, any contribution from work makes the case work-related and, therefore, a recordable hearing loss.
  2. Lockout/Tag Out: The lockout/tagout standard applies to servicing and maintenance operations “in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment, or the release of stored energy could cause injury to employees.” OSHA believes the term “unexpected” has been misinterpreted and is proposing that the word be removed the word from the standard and Appendix A.
  3. Chest X-Rays: OSHA proposes elimination of the requirement for periodic (as opposed to baseline) chest x-rays in the following standards: §§1910.1018 (inorganic arsenic); 1910.1029 (coke oven emissions); and 1910.1045 (acrylonitrile). This proposal does not affect periodic chest x-rays required by OSHA to detect or monitor the progression of pneumoconiosis, plural plaques, and plural thickening or for asbestosis screening. OSHA is also proposing an update to allow the use of digital radiographs in the medical surveillance provisions of the coke oven emissions, acrylonitrile, inorganic arsenic, asbestos, and cadmium standards.
  4. Cotton Dust Standard Pulmonary Function Testing: OSHA is proposing a revision to this provision to specify use of the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) reference data set and to replace the values currently in Appendix C with the NHANES III values.
  5. Feral Cats in Shipyards: Section 1915.80(b)(33) defines the term “vermin” as “insects, birds, and other animals, such as rodents and feral cats, that may create safety and health hazards for employees.” OSHA proposes that feral cats be eliminated from the definition of vermin to protect the cats from cruel and inhumane treatment in efforts to eradicate them from shipyards. They will be treated as “other animals” for enforcement purposes.
  6. Emergency Medical Information: The proposed standard addresses the problem of locating callers in remote areas that do not have automatic-location capability. It would require employers to post in a conspicuous location either the latitude and longitude of the worksite or other location-identification information that effectively communicates the location of the worksite. The proposed revision would also require employers ensure that the communication system used to contact ambulance service is effective (i.e., ensuring cell phones actually work in the location).
  7. Chemical Exposures in Construction Workplaces: Section 1926.55 establishes permissible exposure limits for numerous toxic chemicals used during construction activities. In short, the majority of the changes proposed would eliminate other terminology from the standard and uniformly describe exposure limits as permissible exposure limits. Permissive phrases such as “shall be avoided” will be replaced with mandatory verbiage. The words “inhalation, ingestion, skin absorption, or contact” will be deleted. Appendix A will become Table A and integrate the limits into the standard. The balance of the changes relate to content and annotation errors.
  8. Construction and PSM: OSHA proposes replacement of the entire 31 pages of regulatory text for the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) Standard for construction at §1926.64 with a cross reference to the general industry PSM Standard.
  9. Construction PPE: In short, OSHA proposes revisions to §1926.95(c) to require employers select and provide PPE that properly fits each employee. Specifically, to ensure that PPE fits women and people of smaller stature.
  10. Lifelines used in Construction: OSHA is proposing to revise the minimum breaking-strength requirement for lifelines in the Safety belts, lifelines, and lanyards standard to 5,000 pounds.
  11. Traffic Safety in Construction: OSHA is proposing to update to the references to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to the November 4, 2009 MUTCD (“2009 Edition”), including Revision 1 and 2 dated May, 2012.
  12. Material Storage in Construction: OSHA proposes to eliminate detached, single-family housing and townhouses from the requirements of §1926.250(a)(2) that requires employers post maximum safe load limits of floors in storage areas.
  13. Spoil Piles: The proposed revision would clarify that all materials excavated (spoil piles), regardless of how stable, must be kept (2) feet from the edge of an excavation.
  14. Engines in underground construction: In short, OSHA would allow all new equipment currently available in the market be used without further testing or demonstration (as it meets proposed MSHA standards).
  15. Underground Construction Compressed Air: OSHA is proposing revisions to subpart S—Underground Construction, Caissons, Cofferdams, and Compressed Air by replacing the decompression tables currently found in Appendix A to subpart S with the 1992 French Air and Oxygen decompression tables (which OSHA believes are safer than current OSHA standards).
  16. ROPS on Construction Equipment: In short, OSHA proposes incorporation of the underlying industry standards into the standards that deal with ROPS, thereby streamlining compliance efforts.
  17. Coke Ovens in Construction: OSHA would delete the current standard and cite employers under the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)).
  18. Social Security Numbers for Recordkeeping Purposes: OSHA proposes eliminating the use of employee social security numbers from exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and other records to protect employee privacy and to prevent identity fraud.

Clearly OSHA is trying to modernize and streamline its current standards, but some of these changes will have real impact on employers, particularly in the construction sector. Concerned employers should reach out to OSHA and submit comments about the proposed rules.

The proposed rules can be found here. They also include a “button” for making public comments: