OSHA Rulings Poised to Impact Industry Throughout 2015

As we bid goodbye to 2014 and settle into the new year, it’s important to stay focused on the issues that OSHA is likely to tackle in 2015 and to anticipate what the impact of any regulatory changes could be.

Already on this blog, we’ve reviewed several areas in which OSHA looks likely to make updates or adjustments in 2015. These have included federal OSHA’s oversight of state plans, PPE requirements for healthcare workers handling infectious disease patients, and of course recordkeeping changes related to OSHA’s impending adoption of GHS. However, there are several additional areas where OSHA looks poised to make significant moves later in the year.

Backover Injuries and Fatalities
OSHA has been identifying backover injuries and fatalities as a possible area for new regulation since it first issued a related RFI back in 2012. Many think 2015 will be the year we see definitive movement. According to OSHA, between 2005 and 2010, there were 358 on-the-job fatalities resulting from backovers — that is, accidents in which a vehicle was operating in reverse. OSHA singles out dump trucks, tractor trailers, and garbage trucks especially as having “caused a large number of deaths” in backover incidents. If or when OSHA chooses to act on this issue, likely rule changes could involve new requirements for backup alarms, backup cameras for drivers, and proximity detection systems.

Beryllium Safety
Another area where OSHA is expected to be active is beryllium safety. OSHA said it plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking on worker exposure to beryllium sometime during 2015. Beryllium is a lightweight metal used in the aerospace, nuclear, and general manufacturing industries. As a metal alloy, it can be found in dental appliances, golf clubs, wheelchairs, and electronic devices. According to OSHA, inhaling beryllium dust or fumes can have serious health effects, including chronic lung disease and cancer. A 29-year NIOSH study of workers in beryllium plants found elevated rates of lung, kidney, and heart disease, as well as mouth cancers. OSHA’s safety requirements for beryllium are currently part of its standards for general industry. However, if OSHA moves on this issue in 2015, new regulations are likely to include beryllium-specific safety requirements.

Confined Spaces
Another likely move by OSHA will involve new construction industry rules related to confined spaces. “Confined spaces” are areas not necessarily designed for people, but which are still large enough that workers can enter them to perform jobs. Examples include tanks, silos, vaults, ductwork, and pipelines. OSHA says that “deaths in confined spaces often occur because the atmosphere is oxygen-deficient, toxic, or combustible.” Under current rules, OSHA designates especially hazardous confined spaces as “permit-required” which means that workers must be trained on the hazards within and be issued a permit in order to enter. However, while there is currently a resource page on OSHA’s website for confined spaces safety recommendations for the construction industry, there are not binding regulations or requirements specific to construction. Look for that to change if OSHA issues a new final rule later this year, as some expects it to.

Crane Operators
Finally, in 2015 OSHA is expected to create uniform requirements for crane operators. In September of 2014, OSHA extended its original deadline for employers to ensure their current crane operators were certified from November 2014 to November 2017. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cranes were involved in 818 workplace fatalities between 1997 and 2006. Look for OSHA to make moves in 2015 that focus on making crane operations more standardized and safer for employees.

For more information on forthcoming OSHA regulations, visit the OSHA News Room and stay tuned to the MSDSonline EH&S Blog!