OSHA Rule Changes for Road Work, Lockout/Tagout, Feral Cats

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By Bruce Rolfsen

Oct. 3 — OSHA rules for feral cats, lockout/tagout, tunnel construction, chest X-rays and other subjects could change under a wide-ranging rulemaking the agency announced Oct. 3.

The proposed rule—Standards Improvement Project-Phase IV—is a grab bag of revisions that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says are noncontroversial and inexpensive for employers to implement.

The goal of the rulemaking, in development since 2011, is to “remove or revise outdated, duplicative, unnecessary, and inconsistent requirements,” according to OSHA. As the name suggests, the rulemaking is the fourth package of changes presented by OSHA since the mid-1990s.

OSHA is taking public comments on the possible rule changes (RIN:1218-AC67) through Dec. 5. Comments can be submitted online at www.regulations.gov and must reference Docket No. OSHA-2012-0007.


OSHA seeks to revise its lockout/tagout rule (29 C.F.R. 1910.147) by deleting the phrase “unexpected energization.”

In the rulemaking, OSHA says it intended “unexpected energization” to mean any re-energization or startup of machinery occurring before the servicing employee removes the lockout/tagout device from the energy isolation device.

However, OSHA says in some cases courts and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission found that if machinery had devices warning the servicing employees that the machines were about to start, the startup would not be “unexpected.”

Deleting “unexpected energization” would end confusion about OSHA’s intention, the agency says.

Feral Cats

OSHA currently classifies feral cats among the “vermin” that shipyards are required to protect workers from (29 C.F.R. 1915.80(b)(33)). According to OSHA, shipyard representatives asked OSHA to stop listing feral cats as vermin.

The threat to workers from feral cats is minor since cats often avoid humans, maritime representatives told the agency. In addition treating cats as vermin, encourages cruel and unnecessary extermination.

The revised provision redefines vermin as “insects, birds, rodents and other animals that may create safety and health hazards for employees.” Cats would be considered among the “other animals” covered by the rule.

Calling 911

OSHA says the proposed change deals with the problem of locating callers, usually mobile phone users, in remote areas where 911 systems don’t automatically display the caller’s location. In such areas, employers would have to post in a conspicuous location either the latitude and longitude of the worksite or other specific location information.

Under the current rule (29 C.F.R. 1926.50(e)), employers are required to provide a communication system for contacting ambulance service or transportation for injured workers.

The possible change also requires employers to ensure that their worksite communications system for contacting an ambulance service can reach emergency responders.

The agency isn’t changing the mandate to post telephone numbers of physicians, hospitals or ambulances for worksites located in areas where 911 emergency service isn’t available.

Road Construction Safety

To end confusion about which edition of the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, construction company safety managers should use, OSHA proposes to update the reference in 29 C.F.R. 1926.200(g) to the 2009 edition and the 2012 revision.

The change would end requirement conflicts between OSHA and Department of Transportation requirements, OSHA says.


OSHA wants to remove the phrase “that could pose a hazard by falling or rolling into excavations,” from its rule for excavations, 29 C.F.R. 1926.651.

The change would end OSHA’s legal burden that citations demonstrate a hazard exists, the agency says. The rule would retain the employers’ duty to protect employees from the hazards of materials or equipment less than 2 feet from the excavation’s edge.


OSHA is proposing to allow different decompression time tables to be used for protecting workers who are exposed to compressed-air atmospheres while laboring underground, often drilling horizontal tunnels.

The agency says it preliminarily concluded that the 1992 French air and oxygen decompression tables provide safer practices than OSHA’s decompression tables currently found in29 C.F.R. 1926 Subpart S. In addition, the agency is asking for comment on whether it should adopt other compression tables.

No Social Security Numbers

Employers would no longer have to use Social Security numbers to track workers for medical purposes such as exposure monitoring required by several OSHA regulations, the proposed rule says.

The agency has required Social Security numbers on the records because the numbers are unique personal identifiers for record-keeping purposes. However, federal privacy policies now discourage agencies from mandating the use.

Employers would still be able to use Social Security number to track workers, however it wouldn’t be a federal mandate.

Chest X-rays

The agency is proposing to remove the requirement in several standards for employers to provide periodic chest X-rays to screen for lung cancer.

When the standards took effect several years ago, routine screening for lung cancer with chest X-rays was considered an appropriate practice, OSHA says. However, large studies haven’t shown a benefit to the screening.

The agency wants to remove the requirement from 29 C.F.R 1910.1018, Inorganic Arsenic; 29 C.F.R. 1910.1029, Coke Oven Emissions; and 29 C.F.R. 1910.1045, Acrylonitrile.

The Labor Department isn’t proposing to remove the requirement for a baseline chest X-ray in these, or any other, standards, the rulemaking says.

And, OSHA isn’t proposing to remove chest X-ray requirements in standards where it is used for purposes other than periodic screening for lung cancer. For example, the proposal doesn’t affect using X-rays to detect or monitor the progression of pneumoconiosis.

Limits Eclipse Value

OSHA wants to stop using the term “threshold limit values” in 29 C.F.R. 1926.55, a rule covering toxic chemicals used during construction. The correct phrase is “permissible exposure limit,” OSHA says.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The proposed rule is available at http://src.bna.com/i52.

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