As we get deeper into the second term of President Obama, OSHA’s regulatory agenda is picking up steam. With the first term focused mainly on increasing enforcement, regulatory initiatives often took a back seat to other initiatives. Rules that were announced as Agency priorities – such as OSHA’s combustible dust rulemaking and the Injury Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”) rulemaking – seemed stuck within the halls of the Department of Labor or at the Office of Management and Budget.
Despite this, it seems as though the Agency was busy behind the scenes finalizing its own work on several major rules impacting employers across the country. We are now starting to see those rules published either as proposed or final Agency regulatory actions. Just in the last few months, OSHA has published controversial proposals regulating crystalline silica in the workplace and requiring many employers to submit to OSHA their injury and illness logs on a quarterly basis, which the Agency will then post on the internet. OSHA also just finalized a rule revising its safety standards for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution. This rule had been under development for over a decade.
By historical standards, this recent flurry of activity on the regulatory front is noteworthy. However, it is likely that we will see even more regulatory initiatives proposed or finalized over the next few months. OSHA is looking to finalize a rule that would require employers to affirmatively report to OSHA amputations that occur at the worksite, along with the overnight hospitalization of one employee (instead of the current requirement for reporting for the overnight hospitalization of three or more employees). Another rule that we could see move involves new health requirements for beryllium.
“All stakeholders need to keep an eye on these new initiatives,” remarks Donna Pryor, a Shareholder in Jackson Lewis’s Workplace Safety and Health practice group. “Where at first OSHA’s efforts with respect to new rules and regulations lagged behind its enforcement programs, that does not now seem to be the case.”