OSHA Misses March Goal to Start Rulemaking On Reinforced Steel Construction Standards

The Occupational Safety & Health Reporter™ provides complete news coverage and documentation of federal and state occupational safety and health programs, standards, legislation, regulations, enforcement, and Review Commission decisions.

An effort by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to establish new regulations for reinforcing and post-tensioned steel construction will miss its goal of issuing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking by the end of March, according to union officials who are following the process.

As of March 29, OSHA had not set a new target date for issuing the notice.

Roughly 50 percent of commercial and industrial construction projects use poured-in-place concrete that has been reinforced with steel rods or post-tensioned cables, according to construction industry representatives. In 2009, the last year for which complete numbers are available, about $7.8 trillion was spent on nonresidential construction, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

One of the prime movers behind the proposed regulation, the Ironworkers International union, did not see the delay as a long-term roadblock.

“We are aware that OSHA and the Department of Labor are very busy addressing issues that have been neglected for eight years during the previous administration,” union General President Walter W. Wise told BNA in an e-mail March 28. “Although OSHA has not commenced the rulemaking process, we thank OSHA for having recognized the importance of improving the safety for workers. … No timetable is soon enough when you have ironworkers at risk, but we look forward to cooperating with the agency in the development of the new standards to improve safety performance in our industry.”

OSHA announced in its fall 2010 semiannual regulatory agenda that it was planning new safety regulations to protect workers in the steel construction industry (40 OSHR 1053, 12/23/10).

The announcement said an advance notice of proposed rulemaking was supposed to be issued in March.

Currently, the only regulation of the steel reinforcing and post-tensioning processes are OSHA's rules on concrete and masonry construction (29 CFR 1926, Subpart Q). According to OSHA, more than 100 workers have died over the past 10 years in accidents while working with or near construction involving reinforced steel or high-tension cables. The mishaps included workers killed by collapsing walls and floors and impalement on metal rods.

By Bruce Rolfsen