Updated Hard Hat Proposal Would Allow Use Of Gear Meeting Previous ANSI Standards

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Updating OSHA Head Protection Equipment Rules Based on ANSI Standards.

Key Development: OSHA seeks approval for revised rules for hard hats.

Potential Impact: If approved, changes would cover hard hats used in all industries.

What's Next: Comments must be submitted by July 23.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

A long-awaited update to standards for hard hats used in construction and other industries was proposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the June 22 Federal Register (77 Fed. Reg. 37,587).

The proposed revision seeks to bring OSHA's rules in line with current American National Standards Institute standards for hard hats (ANSI Z89.1) adopted in 2009 (38 OSHR 505, 6/19/08).

Hard hats in use that were manufactured to meet ANSI standards issued in 1997 and 2003 will continue to be permitted. According to the notice, OSHA believes “employers will be able to continue to use the same equipment they are using currently to meet their compliance obligation under the existing standards' design-criteria requirements.”

In some cases, OSHA's current rules refer to consensus standards for hard hats adopted in 1969, standards so out of date that OSHA officials doubt anyone still wears a hard hat manufactured to the 43-year-old specifications.

“The life expectancy of personal protection equipment is about four years. … I would challenge you to go out and find something [manufactured] to a 1969 standard in the economy. You would probably have to hit every flea market,” Ted Tardowski of OSHA's Directorate of Standards and Guidance told the OSHA Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health in December.

At the December meeting, the committee of employer, union, state government safety officials unanimously recommended that OSHA update the hard hat standards.

Update Details.

The update seeks to revise OSHA rules for head protection in general industry, 29 C.F.R. 1910.135(b)(1); shipyards, 29 C.F.R. 1915.155(b)(1); marine terminals, 29 C.F.R. 1917.93(b)(1); longshoring, 29 C.F.R. 1918.103(b)(1); and construction, 29 C.F.R. 1926.100(b) and (c).

The 2009 changes to ANSI standards added provisions for hard hats that could be worn backwards and hard hats with high-visibility coloring. A hard hat approved for being worn backwards must have passed tests for that position and be marked with an “R” signifying it can be worn in reverse. Hard hats claiming high-visibility colors feature must pass visibility testing.

Other 2009 provisions changed how hard hats' protections from electrical hazards were tested and classified.

Also, the 2009 updates required helmets to be permanently marked with a manufacturing date, the manufacturer's name, the helmet's size range, and special use class designations.

Direct Final Rule.

Because OSHA is not anticipating substantial objections to the changes, the agency is using the “direct final rule” method for pursuing the revisions.

Under this process, the changes will take effect Sept. 20 unless the agency receives significant adverse comment. If there is significant adverse comment, OSHA will withdraw the direct final rule and pursue the revisions through a notice of proposed rulemaking, a process that allows more industry and public input, and reviews by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

To speed the process if OSHA withdraws the direct final rule and follows the notice of proposed rulemaking route, the agency also published the notice of proposed rulemaking in the June 22 Federal Register (77 Fed. Reg. 37,617).

OSHA is accepting comments about the proposed direct final rule through July 23. Comments can be submitted online by going to http://www.regulations.gov and should reference Docket No. OSHA-2011-0184.

By Bruce Rolfsen  

The direct final rule notice is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-06-22/pdf/2012-15030.pdf.

The notice of proposed rule making is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-06-22/pdf/2012-15031.pdf.

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