Crystalline silica exposure
OSHA is still at the proposed stage of changing crystalline-silica-exposure standards. A number of industry associations
have voiced concerns about the practicality of implementing
certain measures of the silica regulation.
“Some of the suggested control measures for silica,
like spraying water to reduce dust, simply wouldn’t work
on inside construction projects,” said Michael Johnston,
National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) executive director. “As electrical contractors, we make every effort
to keep water away from electrical installations in progress.”
Some experts believe OSHA is dragging its feet on this
proposed rule change and that a final version may not be seen
for a long time. This may be attributed to the amount of opposition from the industry. The proposed rule was also derived
from outdated information. Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the spending bill
that would prohibit any funding to enforce silica regulations until a new rule can be drafted with updated data. The
amendment was submitted by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.).
“My amendment would not only ensure that the latest
science is used by OSHA, but also that this agency conducts
a long overdue study of the impact of current silica regulations on small businesses,” Hoeven said.
In June, the National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health (NIOSH) released a silicosis update. It included
new information about silicosis and how a wide range of
workers in numerous industries are exposed to silica.
“While silicosis mortality in the U.S. has declined over
time, the continuing occurrence of silicosis deaths in
young adults and reports of new occupations and tasks that
place workers at risk for silicosis underscore the need for
strengthening efforts to limit workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica,” the update states.
In August, OSHA’s new confined space standard for the con-
struction industry went into effect. The regulation defines
confined and enclosed spaces using industry examples such
as storage tanks and underground utility vaults.
According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA
David Michaels, confined spaces in the construction indus-
try are very different from those found in most general
industry work sites.
“Construction sites are continually evolving with the
number and characteristics of confined spaces changing
as work progresses,” he said. “This rule emphasizes train-
ing, continuous work-site evaluation and communication
requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”
The rule requires employers to classify confined spaces
according to physical and atmospheric hazards identified by
an assessment of the space. For the construction industry, there
are now four classifications: isolated-hazard confined space,
controlled-atmosphere confined space, permit-required confined space and continuous system permit-required confined
space. Permit-required spaces are similar to those addressed
in OSHA’s General Industry Standard.
Tracking workplace injuries and illnesses
In October, OSHA submitted a draft final rule for a proposed
rule to improve workplace injury and illness tracking to the
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. OSHA’s goal
was to have the final version issued and in effect by January 2016; however, it appears that it will take a little longer
When the final rule is issued, it will require employers subject to requirements for injury and illness record-keeping to
electronically submit certain information from the OSHA 300
Log, OSHA 301 Incident Report and OSHA 300A summary. At
present, employers are only required to submit this information upon request, typically as part of an inspection or survey.
“With the changes in this rule, employers, employees,
the government and researchers will have better access to
data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and
result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards
and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities,” Michaels said.
2016 OSHA regulatory and political outlook