Working surfaces and fall protection
OSHA has also submitted draft final rules for walking and
working surfaces and personal fall-protection systems
standards. These changes will incorporate current technologies for preventing slip, trip and
fall hazards and establish requirements for personal fall-protection systems. These final versions
are likely to be released soon.
In OSHA’s 2016 regulatory agenda, a
number of actions are up for consideration. Seven are at the prerule stage,
which means the agency is gathering
information to create a new standard
or make changes to an old one. Two or
three of these may affect electricians,
linemen and wiremen. The rules include
communication-tower safety, combustible dusts and blood-borne pathogens.
OSHA recorded 91 fatalities and 17 injuries from incidents
involving communication towers from 2003 through 2013. Seventy-nine of the fatalities were due to falls. Structural collapses
killed eight people, three fatalities involved electrocutions, and
the last fatality was due to an employee being struck by a load
while working on a tower. Falls were also the leading cause of
injuries among communication-tower workers.
As a result, OSHA is gathering information regarding industry best practices, safety practices, certifications, training and
current industry consensus standards. This preparation is to
develop a proposed standard on communication-tower safety.
OSHA is conducting similar efforts in the area of combustible dusts.
There are also a number of proposed rules and ongoing
efforts to modify existing standards. At present, those address
crane-operator qualification in construction, amendments to
the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard and occupational exposure to beryllium.
When President Barack Obama issued his fiscal year (FY) 2016
Department of Labor budget request, he asked for an additional
$39.3 million in funding for OSHA. The extra money would
employ 90 new full-time staff members. Sixty of those positions would be dedicated to regulatory enforcement. With
the additional funding, OSHA anticipates conducting 37,785
inspections in 2016.
In addition to enforcement, OSHA is hopeful to expand
whistleblower-protection programs. According to the FY 2016
budget request, $5.1 million more would be directed to these
types of activities by, “improving investigation timeliness and
quality as well as access to information about rights afforded
those who file a whistleblower complaint.” It also includes an
increase of $3.3 million to modernize its process safety manage-
ment (PSM) and other chemical-related standards.
The president’s request for increased funding is
unlikely to be fulfilled. In June, the House and Senate
Appropriations Committee passed versions of a spend-
ing bill that would actually cut OSHA’s budget, prohibiting
inspectors from allowing third parties to accompany com-
pliance officers on inspection without a vote of approval
by employees and defunding the Susan
Harwood Training Grant Program.
Dissenting Senate Democrats issued
a press release stating: “This would
reduce OSHA’s ability to enforce the
Occupational Safety and Health Act,
resulting in thousands of fewer investigations of potential workplace health
and safety issues affecting tens of thousands of workers.”
In addition, a coalition of more than
75 worker safety groups and trade associations sent a letter to the president,
Congress is also pushing for greater enforcement by OSHA.
However, in October, Michaels testified before Congress in an
“The fewer inspections we do, the more injuries are going
to occur, and the more costs are going to go up, and so we know
this is going to have bad impact on workers,” he said.
He also noted that the agency is inspecting less than 40 percent of injury and illness reports that have been made under
the new reporting standards effective last January.
All of the political jockeying that took place over potential
changes were all for naught. In the final hours before the holiday recess, Congress approved an omnibus appropriations bill
for FY 2016. The legislation was swiftly signed into law by President Obama to avoid another government shutdown. The law
ultimately results in the same spending levels for OSHA as 2015.
Whether OSHA’s budget is cut or not, achieving all of its policy goals for 2016 will be an uphill climb. However, the progress
the agency makes will reduce the number workplace injuries,
illnesses and fatalities. For more information on the topics in
this article or to review OSHA’s regulatory agenda or budget
request, visit www.osha.gov.
O’CONNO R is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a
safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site
assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for
contractors. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. I S T
OSHA recorded 91
fatalities and 17 injuries
from incidents involving
communication towers from 2003
through 2013. Seventy-nine of the
fatalities were due to falls.