Request for Information on Exposure Limits On Track, White House Says on ‘Lookback'

Labor Department Update on Regulatory Lookback

Key Takeaway: OSHA updates progress on regulatory retrospective analysis; plans request for information on permissible exposure limit update.

Potential Impact: Will improve health and safety standards while reducing regulatory burdens, the administration says.

What's Next: RFI on PELs scheduled for August; other updates targeted to be completed this month.

By Greg Hellman  

As part of its retrospective analysis of existing regulations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will issue a request for information on updating its chemical exposure standards in August, the White House announced in a recent update.

Executive Order 13,563, published Jan. 21 (76 Fed. Reg. 3821), gave agencies until May 18 to come up with preliminary plans for periodic reviews of significant regulations.

Comments sent to the Labor Department's docket concerning OSHA included calls to revise the agency's permissible exposure limits, reinstate its proposed reinterpretation on noise abatement, and push forward with regulations on an injury and illness prevention program, infectious diseases, and combustible dust (41 OSHR 372, 4/28/11).

The agency's information request will seek ways to address occupational exposures to chemicals, since many of the permissible exposure limits have gone unchanged since they were adopted in 1971, the update said. In the past two-and-a-half years OSHA has taken several steps to reconsider how to address exposure limits, including bringing together stakeholders to discuss options, asking the public to identify the hazardous chemicals in most urgent need of action, and soliciting information from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on a group of chemicals.

Several options have been considered already, including enforcing employer-set limits, addressing chemical hazards through the planned injury and illness prevention program rule, a substance-by-substance approach, control banding, and expanded use of the general duty clause.

Construction Standard Updates.

In addition to its PELs project, OSHA had planned to issue a direct final rule last month to update its personal protective equipment standard for the construction industry.

The agency issued a final rule in 2009 updating the standard based on an American National Standards Institute consensus standard. However, while it was undergoing review by the Office of Management and Budget, the group published a new edition (41 OSHR 1099, 12/22/11).

The direct final rule will update the standard based on that edition.

In another change to its construction rules, OSHA will publish a direct final rule in June to carve out an exemption for all work done by digger derricks in its cranes and derricks standard (29 C.F.R. 1926 Subpart CC).

The rule is a result of a settlement between the agency and Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned electric companies. EEI argued that equipment used by electric utilities to put up power transmission lines should not be covered by the standard (41 OSHR 772, 9/8/11).

Finally, OSHA will issue a request for information in June and begin the fourth phase of its Standards Improvement Project, this time focusing on construction standards.

The project, which is intended to revise duplicative or unnecessary rules and reduce regulatory burdens, could look at several issues, including: eliminating a requirement for written certification of training in the fall protection rule (29 C.F.R. 1926.503); amending decompression tables in the underground construction standard (29 C.F.R. 1926.650); and bringing the fit standard for personal protection equipment (29 C.F.R. 1926 Subpart E) in line with the general industry standard, among other changes (41 OSHR 1094, 12/22/11).

By Greg Hellman  

The White House's update to the Labor Department's retrospective review plan is available at