OSHA Sends Standards Improvement Project Final Rule to White House for Review

A draft final rule updating various occupational safety and health standards as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Standards Improvement Project was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review May 9.

The proposed rule, issued in July 2010 (75 Fed. Reg. 38,646), would update standards related to respiratory protection, medical surveillance records, lead, training, and other issues as part of OSHA's project to identify and revise confusing, outdated, or duplicative language from its regulations (40 OSHR 576, 7/8/10).

The rulemaking marks the third phase of OSHA's Standards Improvement Project.

As part of the project, OSHA proposed seven changes to its respiratory protection standard (29 C.F.R. 1910.134). These included aligning air cylinder testing requirements for self-contained breathing apparatuses with Department of Transportation regulations, clarifying that aftermarket cylinders meet National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health quality assurance requirements, replacing the word “fits” with the less offensive word “seizures” in the medical questionnaire, and clarifying that the provisions of Appendix D, which contains information for employees using respirators when not required under the standard, are mandatory if the employee does choose to use a respirator.

Other proposed revisions to the respiratory protection standard included the addition of requirements inadvertently left out of the asbestos standard for shipyards (29 C.F.R. 1915.1001) and standards for four liquid carcinogens: methyl chloromethyl ether, bis-chloromethyl ether, ethyleneimine, and beta-propiolactone.

OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has 90 days to review a rule. It is the final step before publication in the Federal Register.

NFPA Urges Revisions.

In comments submitted to OSHA on its proposed rule, the National Fire Protection Association urged the agency to change references to an old edition of the association's Life Safety Code and delete references to standards by associations that do not use an open consensus process.

In addition, NFPA asked OSHA to change the title of Subpart E from “Exit Routes and Emergency Planning” to “Means of Egress and Emergency Planning” to align it with its own codes.

Finally, OSHA should use the more recent 2011 version of NFPA's flammable and combustible liquids standard than the 2006 version cited in its proposed rule, the association said.

The 2011 version reflects several safety improvements, it added. For example, new standard contains requirements related to new technologies. Furthermore, OSHA requirements on the spray application of flammable liquids do not address provisions on alternative materials for construction of spray booths or worker safety training, the NFPA said.

Lead, Cadmium, Standards.

The OSHA proposal also would revise the threshold for monitoring requirements under its lead standards in general industry and construction ( 29 C.F.R. 1910.25 and 1926.62 ) to require employers to continue monitoring quarterly until at least two consecutive measurements, taken at least seven days apart, are at or above the action level but below the permissible exposure limit.

In another change to the lead standard, OSHA would clarify that employers must institute medical surveillance programs for workers who are exposed at or above the action level, rather than only above.

The agency also proposed to remove a requirement in its cadmium standards for general industry and construction ( 29 C.F.R. 1910.1027 and 1910.1127 ) for employers to keep written training certification records. The cost of maintaining these records is not justified by the safety and health benefits, the agency said in its proposal.

Also under the proposal, NIOSH would no longer be required to maintain medical and exposure records for 15 substance-specific standards that have proved of no research utility but which demand costly upkeep.

Other rules that would be revised under phase three of the Standards and Improvement Project proposed to change included revising OSHA's sanitation standard (29 C.F.R. 1910.141) to align its definition of “potable water” with the Environmental Protection Agency; eliminating the term “hot” in “hot air drying machines” in OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard and four sanitation standards to allow for the use of newer technologies that use non-heated air to dry hands; and revising OSHA's commercial diving operations standard to eliminate a requirement to retain medical records for five years.

By Greg Hellman

Public comments made to OSHA on phase three of its Standards Improvement Project are available at http://www.regulations.gov/ under the Docket No. OSHA-2006-0049.