ACCSH Rejects Ending Requirements For X-Rays, Fall Protection Recordkeeping

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By Bruce Rolfsen  


Proposals from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to end requirements for chest X-rays and fall protection paperwork failed to earn approvals from the agency's construction advisory panel when it met May 23 and 24.

However, the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health did support OSHA initiatives to revise several other construction standards.

Many of the potential rule changes could be incorporated into a package of revisions called Standard Improvement Project IV (RIN 1218-AC67) (43 OSHR 142, 2/14/13). At best, a draft version of SIP IV is not expected until late 2013 or early 2014.

Fall Protection

A proposal to end the requirement for employers to maintain written records of fall protection training (29 C.F.R. 1926 Subpart M) did not find support among ACCSH members.

Paul Bolon, of OSHA's Directorate of Standards and Guidance, said the agency was considering ending the requirement in order to reduce paperwork and because inspectors do not rely on the documents, preferring instead to interview workers.

However, committee members objected, saying that weakening fall protection regulation is sending the “wrong message” to employers and that recordkeeping problems are often a sign of other safety issues.

Committee member Chuck Stribling did not accept the agency's logic about depending on interviews.

“In the case of fatality, you don't have an interview,” said Stribling, of Kentucky's Department of Workplace Standards.

X-Rays Should Continue

The committee recommended that OSHA delay removing requirements for chest X-rays from two health standards that apply to construction workers potentially exposed to cadmium (29 C.F.R. 1926.1127) and inorganic arsenic (29 C.F.R. 1910.1018).

While OSHA health specialists have concluded that X-rays are ineffective at detecting lung cancer, ACCSH members said OSHA should consult with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health before dropping the X-ray requirements.

Road Construction, Tunneling

OSHA revisions to several other standards did earn the committee's approval.

The panel said yes to updating rules for road construction projects--29 C.F.R. 1926.200(g)(2), 1926.201(a), and 1226.202--to reference the Federal Highway Administration's latest version of the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, most recently revised in May 2012.

In practice, OSHA already allows contractors to follow the new version of the manual, but agency rules reference the 2002 revision of the manual, OSHA staffers told the committee.

Also approved was a change to decompression tables that contractors performing tunnelling and other underground construction work must follow when employees exposed to high air pressure environments are brought back to the surface.

The tables now referenced by 29 C.F.R. 1926 Subpart S, Appendix A are out of date with current construction techniques and put workers at risk, an OSHA staff member said.

The agency wants to replace the current table with a menu of tables employers could choose from, including the NIOSH-developed Edel-Kindwall Caisson tables and those adopted by British, French, German, and Brazilian agencies.

Crane Rule Changes

In a proposed rule change that is not part of SIP IV, the committee recommended that OSHA reconsider a change the agency wants to make to the standard for cranes and derricks in construction (29 C.F.R. 1926 Subpart CC).

The crane standard, effective in 2010, requires that by Nov. 8, 2013, cranes used near power lines be equipped with proximity alarms and/or insulating links/devices that have been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Proximity alarms warn operators when their cranes are dangerously close to power lines by sensing the lines' electrical currents. Insulators are attached to a crane's cable and are intended to protect the crane operator and others from electrocution, if the cable or load contacts a power line, by preventing electricity from flowing through the cable and into crane.

The problem is that no laboratory has yet conducted testing of alarms or insulators. As a result, last July OSHA issued a temporary enforcement policy (42 OSHR 649, 7/19/12).

Now, OSHA is proposing to allow cranes to be equipped with insulating links/devices that have not been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

However, at the ACCSH meeting, the Crane Power Line Safety Organization asked the committee to recommend that OSHA only allow use of insulators meeting a consensus standard, American National Standards Institute/Underwriters Laboratories 2737 (ANSI/UL 2737). These insulators provide protection in wet and dirty conditions, attorney Arthur Sapper, of McDermott Will & Emery, told the committee.

ACCSH agreed and recommended OSHA consider the consensus standard requirement in lieu of national laboratory approval. The committee also recommended that OSHA allow proximity alarms on cranes, equipment that is now effectively prohibited because laboratories have yet to test the alarms.

“These devices are out there and apparently work,” Pete Stafford, ACCSH chairman said.

OSHA officials gave no indication when a final rule with the insulator and proximity alarm revisions would be published.

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