OSHA Changes to Watch in 2016
January 5, 2015
By Roger M. Paveza, Vista Safety Consulting, LLC
In November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its Fall 2015 Unified Agenda, which includes 32 regulatory actions at various stages of the rulemaking process. Some of the notable highlights to watch in 2016 include:
Increased OSHA Penalties
In early November, as part of the congressional budget deal signed into law by President Obama, provisions were included to authorize OSHA to increase fines by approximately 80 percent.
The Agreement would allow OSHA to make a one-time “catch-up” increase to compensate for more than two decades of no increases. Assuming OSHA applies the increase (Aug. 1, 2016), the current maximum $70,000 fine for Repeat and Willful violations would grow to a maximum of $126,000, and the $7,000 maximum fine for Serious and Failure-to-Abate violations would increase to $12,600. After the one-time “catch-up” increase is implemented, OSHA will then annually increase maximum penalties the amount of the inflation rate for the prior fiscal year.
Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica
The occupational exposure to crystalline silica is highlighted as OSHA’s top priority. OSHA is aiming to reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica and create a comprehensive standard that would include requirements for compliance methods, exposure monitoring, training, and medical surveillance. The final rule is projected to be released in February 2016.
Improved Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses
OSHA also highlighted its “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rulemaking," also known as the electronic recordkeeping proposal, as a key priority in 2016. If implemented, the rule would modify OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping standard to require employers to submit certain injury and illness recordkeeping information electronically to OSHA. In turn, it would make the information publicly available to anyone who would like to review it. A final rule is projected to be released in March 2016. OSHA’s hope is that this additional information will embarrass companies into being more careful:“We believe that the possibility of public reporting of serious injuries will encourage, or, in the behavioral economics term, nudge employers to take steps to prevent injuries so they’re not seen as unsafe places to work."
Walking – Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Slips, Trips, and Fall Prevention)
According to the agenda, OSHA’s revamped Walking – Working Surfaces rule will be published in April 2016. The rule has been in the works for many years, and the publication date has been a moving target. The agency originally published the proposed rule in 1990, addressing slips, trips, and fall hazards, as well as establishing requirements for personal fall protection systems. Since that time, new technologies and procedures have become available to protect employees from these hazards. The agency has been working to update these rules and published a second proposal (May 24, 2010), which reflected current information and increased consistency with other OSHA standards.
Aside from the possibility of any “midnight” regulations (last minute regulations at the end of an administration), some other agenda items to keep your eye on include:
- Updating OSHA standards based on national consensus standards for eye and face protection. The update would revise eye and face protection regulations to incorporate the 2010 edition of the ANSI Z87.1 consensus standard. A final rule is projected for March 2016.
- Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard. It’s anticipated that OSHA will propose a rule that makes corrections and amendments to the final standard for cranes and derricks published in August 2010. Proposed Rule, April 2016.
- Lock-out/Tag-out Update. Request for Information, September 2016
- Powered Industrial Trucks. Request for Information, October 2016.