Rule Revises Lockout/Tagout Provisions, Addresses Hygiene, Operation of Vehicles

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New lockout/tagout provisions aimed at preventing electrocutions are the primary focus of a final rule promulgated May 2 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration governing safety in shipyards.

The updated sections of OSHA's General Working Conditions for Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915, Subpart F, and 1910) in the May 2 Federal Register (76 Fed. Reg. 24,576) also address workplace hygiene, such as the number of portable toilets that must be provided; operation of cars, trucks and other motorized vehicles in shipyards; and first aid requirements.

Ian Bennitt, government affairs manager for the Shipbuilders Council of America, told BNA May 2 that implementing the lockout/tagout regulations will be the most difficult part of the change.

“We'll have to work with our membership on that,” he said.

A Bureau of Labor Statistics study, cited by OSHA in 2007, found that from 1992 to 2002, almost 25 percent of shipyard fatalities were linked to exposure to energy hazards, including electrical hazards that could lead to electrocution. The previous standard did not have separate lockout/tagout provisions.

Among the new requirements are that shipbuilders designate a “lockout/tagout coordinator” to oversee all logout/tagout measures when several employees are working in different sections of the same vessel or working on the same machinery.

Part of the debate on the lockout/tagout requirements, during the comment period when the rule was in the proposed stage, centered on whether the final rule needed to address unique aspects of shipbuilding or if OSHA should apply general industry provisions. OSHA said in the final rule that after considering “the many informative comments and testimony,” it should develop a regulation that includes the substance of the general industry lockout/tagout provisions and add language that is more compatible with protecting workers in shipyard employment.

“This final standard addresses the control of hazardous energy through the use of locks and tags--plus applications, employee training, written program and procedures, and program audits, as well as other requirements,” the rule said. “The agency believes the final approach developed from this information and data resulted in regulations that are compatible with providing optimal safety in shipyard employment.”

At Newport News (Va.) Shipbuilding, the director of environmental health and safety, James R. Thornton, told BNA May 3 that a team is going through the “mammoth” standard to understand how it will impact the 19,000-plus workers there.

The shipyard has been an OSHA Voluntary Protection Program Star participant since 1995 and may already meet some of the new requirements, such as the first-aid provisions, he said.

Meeting the lockout/tagout requirements will prompt changes. “It will certainly make us do things slightly different,” Thornton said.

Debate on what should be in the standard began in December 2007 when OSHA proposed the rule and solicited comment from people and organizations affected by the changes, such as shipbuilders, unions representing shipyard workers, and the U.S. Navy. Four days of public hearings were held during 2008.

The annual cost to businesses of satisfying the new requirements is estimated at $4.18 million, while the requirements should save an estimated $33.8 million in medical and benefit costs, the . OSHA calculated the new rule will save at least one life annually and prevent 348 injuries.

 

In July 2009, OSHA presented its draft final rule to the White House's Office of Management and Budget. OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs completed its review April 12 (41 OSHR 343, 4/21/11).

The logout/tagout provisions take effect Oct. 31, while the other provisions are enforceable starting Aug. 1, the rule said.

By Bruce Rolfsen


The final shipyard rule in the May 2 Federal Register is available at http://op.bna.com/env.nsf/r?Open=sbra-8ggmph.