OSHA Delays Critical Protections as Worker Deaths Increase

by Katie Tracy

December 20, 2017

President Trump planned and then starred in his own ribbon-cutting ceremony last week, symbolic of all the safeguards for health, safety and the environment that he intends to shred while in office. This mockery of the administration’s obligation to ensure the public is protected from harm caused by corner-cutting businesses coincided with the release of the Administration’s fall 2017 regulatory agenda. What this political stunt — and the rhetoric that goes along with it — really means, however, is that Trump cares more about reducing the sheer number of regulatory safeguards than he does about evaluating the benefits those safeguards provide to our health and safety.  

As with the spring 2017 iteration of the agenda, Trump makes clear he has no concern for working families. OSHA’s fall agenda includes 16 planned activities, up from 14 in the spring. Of the 16, seven are listed as in the final stages. Not one of these rules would expand worker protections.

One of the rules listed in the final category is the delay of the compliance date until Dec. 15, 2017, for an Obama-era rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. Notably, the agenda also includes a proposal to weaken provisions of this final rule.

A rule OSHA plans to finalize in the months ahead is its recent proposal to weaken the 2017 beryllium standard. In its current form, the beryllium standard is projected to save 90 workers’ lives and prevent 46 new cases of chronic disease annually. Apparently, the Trump administration doesn’t think this is a worthwhile endeavor, and so is moving ahead with revisions to the standard that will ease requirements on the construction and maritime industries by removing applicable ancillary provisions.

Another rule listed as in the final stage is a delay of the effective date for crane operator qualification requirements in the 2010 Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard, which specifies the criteria employers are to use to determine if operators are qualified to operate cranes safely on construction sites. OSHA is reconsidering certain provisions of the rule, and has decided to delay until November 10, 2018, the deadline for employers to ensure that crane operators are certified and competent to operate a crane safely.

Other rules listed as in the final stage are merely items delayed from the agency’s spring 2017 agenda. For example, OSHA is delaying by five months the date by which it expects to finalize a 2016 proposed rule to update several existing standards and paperwork requirements identified as unnecessary or duplicative. OSHA is also delaying by seven months its expected date for making technical corrections to 16 other standards.

The fall 2017 agenda also lists five actions in the pre-rule stage and four in the proposal stage. All but one of these nine actions are delays of activities listed in the spring 2017 agenda. The one remaining action—Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard—was moved from the list of Long-Term Actions back to the proposal stage where it had been for several years prior to Trump taking office. This corresponds to the delayed effective date for crane operator certifications, as noted above. OSHA now intends to issue a proposed rule amending the 2010 final standard by September 2018.

OSHA’s list of Long-Term Actions hasn’t changed significantly since the spring agenda. Although two items were moved from the list and are now in play, the list still contains eight actions that have been indefinitely delayed, many of which would target critical health and safety hazards. This means that OSHA still has no intention of moving forward on these unregulated risks to workers, such as by protecting emergency responders from hazards they encounter or protecting health care workers from infectious diseases.

What does all this regulatory inaction and delay really mean for workers? Unfortunately, it means the Administration doesn’t consider worker health and safety a priority in the near- or long-term.

It should, considering that workplace deaths are on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported the total number of on-the-job fatalities in 2016 was 5,190, a 7-percent increase over 2015, and the first time the number has reached 5,000 since 2008.

Following is a complete list of the regulatory and deregulatory actions listed on OSHA’s fall 2017 agenda. Or you can download it in PDF form here.

                                                                      OSHA RULES IN PLAY

Rule Name

RIN

Description

Fall 2017

Spring 2017

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium

1218-AB76

OSHA is continuing to push forward its proposal to amend the Jan. 2017 final rule limiting worker exposure to beryllium to ease requirements on the construction and maritime industries. The revised standard is expected to be finalized by Sept. 2018.

Final

Proposed

Standards Improvement Project IV

1218-AC67

OSHA is delaying by 5 months (sliding from Sept. 2017 to Feb. 2018) the date it expects to finalize its 2016 proposed rule to update several existing standards and paperwork requirements identified as unnecessary or duplicative.

Final

Final

Amendments to Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard

1218-AC81

OSHA has moved this item from its list of Long-Term Actions and now intends to begin action on a proposed rule to amend its 2010 final standard to make corrections and other clarifications, with a proposal expected by Sept. 2018.

Proposed

Long-Term Action

Communication Tower Safety

1218-AC90

OSHA is delaying by 7 months (sliding from Aug. 2017 to Mar. 2018) the date by which it intends to complete a small business review panel to consider regulatory approaches the agency ought to take to address the higher-than-average fatality rate among workers in the communication tower industry.

Note: By law, OSHA will need to initiate a new small business panel because the 90 days for completing the panel it supposedly began in Jan. 2017 has expired.

Pre-rule

Pre-rule

Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol: Amendment to the Final Rule on Respiratory Protection

1218-AC94

OSHA intends to finalize a rule by Sept. 2018 that would amend the agency's respiratory standard finalized in 1998 to incorporate new fit test protocols.

Final

Proposed

Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records

1218-AC95

OSHA has moved this item from its Spring 2017 list of Long-Term Actions and now intends to take steps to finalize updates to make more efficient its internal procedures on obtaining and using personally identifiable employee medical information. A final rule is expected by June 2018.

Final

Long-Term Action

Crane Operator Qualification in Construction

1218-AC96

In Nov. 2017, OSHA finalized an extension of the effective date of provisions from the 2010 final construction cranes standard. 

Final

Proposed

Mechanical Power Press Update

1218-AC98

OSHA is delaying by one month (sliding from Feb. 2018 to Mar. 2018) its expected date for requesting information from the public about how it should proceed with updating its mechanical power presses standard to address the use of hydraulic or pneumatic power presses and other technological changes over the past 40 years.

Pre-rule

Pre-rule

Powered Industrial Trucks

1218-AC99

OSHA is delaying by one month (sliding from Dec. 2017 to Jan. 2018) its expected date for requesting information from the public about how it should proceed with updating its outdated standard on powered industrial trucks.

Pre-rule

Pre-rule

Lockout/Tag-out Update

1218-AD00

OSHA is delaying by one month (sliding from Apr. 2018 to May 2018) its expected date for requesting information from the public about recent technological advancements employing computer-based controls of hazardous energy that conflict with the existing lock-out/ tag-out standard.

Pre-rule

Pre-rule

Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Exemption Expansions for Railroad Roadway Work

1218-AD07

OSHA is delaying by two months (sliding from Oct. 2017 to Dec. 2017) its expected date for proposing revisions to its Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard to expand the exemptions for railroad roadway work as required by a settlement agreement reached in Sept. 2014. 

Proposed

Proposed

Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal

1218-AD10

OSHA is delaying by three months (sliding from April 2018 to July 2018) its expected date for issuing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on strengthening the existing lead standard by lowering the blood lead level at which an employee may be returned to a former job.

Pre-rule

Pre-rule

Technical Corrections to 16 OSHA Standards

1218-AD12

OSHA is delaying by seven months (sliding from July 2017 to Feb. 2018) its expected date for making technical corrections to sixteen OSHA standards.

Final

Proposed

Puerto Rico State Plan

1218-AD13

OSHA is delaying by eight months (sliding from Oct. 2017 to June 2018) its expected date for proposing a rule to allow Puerto Rico to operate a state plan.

Proposed

Proposed

Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses (Entry 1) and (Entry 2)

1218-AD16 and

1218-AD17

OSHA finalized a delay of the compliance date on the 2016 final Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule. In a separate, related action, OSHA has delayed by two months (sliding from Oct. 2017 to Dec. 2017) its proposed rule to amend provisions of the 2016 final rule.

Final/ Proposed

Proposed

                                                                  LONG-TERM ACTIONS

Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Recordkeeping Requirements--Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Column

1218-AC45

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely work it began in 2009 to restore the MSD column to the OSHA 300 log so that employers and workers can better track these injuries and the agency can collect better statistical data.

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

Infectious Diseases

1218-AC46

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely the development of a standard that would require employers in the health care and similarly high-risk industries to establish a comprehensive infection control program and control measures to protect workers from infectious disease.

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

Process Safety Management and Prevention of Major Chemical Accidents

1218-AC82

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely work it began in 2013 to modernize its process safety management standard to prevent major chemical disasters.

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

Shipyard Fall Protection--Scaffolds, Ladders, and Other Working Surfaces

1218-AC85

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely work it began in 2013 to determine its options for updating its existing standard on shipyard fall protection to provide more comprehensive coverage and to reflect technological developments.

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

Emergency Response and Preparedness

1218-AC91

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its plans to issue a comprehensive standard to address significant hazards to emergency response workers. 

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

Update to the Hazard Communication Standard

1218-AC93

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its plans to update the agency's hazard communication standard to maintain alignment with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification of Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) and other countries that have adopted the GHS.

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

Tree Care Standard

1218-AD04

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its work to develop a standard for tree care operations, which it began in response to an industry petition it granted in 2008.

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

Preventing Workplace Violence in Healthcare

1218-AD08

OSHA will continue to delay indefinitely its plan to develop a standard to prevent workplace violence in healthcare, which it initiated in response to union petitions it granted in 2017.

Long-Term Action

Long-Term Action

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Also from Katie Tracy

Katie Tracy, J.D., joined CPR as a workers’ rights policy analyst in May 2015. Her previous experience includes working for more than two years as a regulatory policy analyst at the Center for Effective Government, where she advocated for strong regulations to protect health, safety, and the environment.

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