DENVER--The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's final rule on confined spaces in construction is now being cleared internally and is “really close” to being issued, an OSHA official said June 4 at the American Society of Safety Engineers' annual convention.
Due to election-year politics, however, “it's hard to tell what will actually get published by the end of the year,” Jim Maddux, director of OSHA's directorate of construction, said. “At least on the staff level, we've got almost all the work done on this one.”
The confined space standard has been in development since 2003. Public hearings were held in 2008. An OSHA official said in 2008 the rule would reduce confined space fatalities by 90 percent (38 OSHR 665, 8/21/08; 38 OSHR 154, 2/21/08).
OSHA's most recent regulatory agenda lists a June 2012 target date for the final rule (42 OSHR 69, 1/26/12).
OSHA is also continuing work on a cranes and derricks directive to accompany its August 2010 regulation, with the goal of issuing a final document within “about the next month” for internal comment, Maddux said (42 OSHR 493, 5/31/12).
“This is really, really needed,” he said. “We need to get the directive done so we can really complete our training programs for our compliance officers, so we can get out and start enforcing the crane standard more seriously and with more consistency.”
OSHA is currently enforcing the crane standard, but Maddux said there are “a number of soft spots that we're keeping away from.” He did not elaborate.
OSHA is also readying a directive on highway work zones for its enforcement staff, aimed at creating more consistency in how citations are issued, Maddux said.
The directive will apply not only to roadbed work, but also to any situations in which workers are on a roadway surface, such as utility work or trenching operations, in which crews are using a roadway as a work platform, according to Maddux.
Maddux also said OSHA officials are concerned about a stubbornly persistent fatality rate in the construction sector that has been masked by a drop in actual deaths.
The number of construction deaths fell from 1,204 in 2007 to 774 in 2010, almost entirely “because the construction industry tanked,” he said. However, the death rate has remained virtually unchanged, from 9.7 per 100,000 workers in 2007 to 9.9 the following year and 9.8 in 2009.
“We're not making progress,” Maddux said. “The numbers are deceptive. So the question is, what are we going to do when the economy returns and construction picks up--which, in some parts of the country, it is already starting to do right now? Are we going to return to 1,200 fatalities a year?”
According to the U.S. Census, seasonally adjusted construction activity rose by 6.8 percent in the U.S. from April 2011 to April 2012.
Commenting on the most frequently cited OSHA violations, Maddux said it was “distressing” that so many of the top citation categories concern personal protective equipment, such as fall protection, head protection, and eye and face protection.
“Despite all of our efforts, we still don't have people in basic hard hats, safety shoes, safety glasses,” Maddux said. “We're still not getting through to enough of the construction industry on these basic issues.”
Maddux also said OSHA enforcement is the prime force that drives the agency's other activities, such as outreach and voluntary programs.
“If you don't have a strong enforcement program, people really don't care about the rest of it,” Maddux said. “It is our enforcement program that draws a lot of the attention to things like the consultation program, to the voluntary protection program.”
Many companies currently enrolled in VPP were once the subject of large enforcement cases, Maddux said.
By Stephen Lee
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)