Enforcement and Inspection

OSHA Sets Regulatory Priorities for 2010

Hazardous chemicals and substances play leading roles in OSHA’s list of regulatory priorities for 2010. Here’s a quick review of expected rulemaking.

What’s new with OSHA? OSHA Chief Dr. David Michaels says, "We’re moving from reaction to prevention, beefing up enforcement, and moving the regulatory agenda forward."

Regulatory priorities for this year have been set and, as many suspected, hazardous chemicals and substances top the list.

Here’s a rundown on what to expect on the rulemaking front this year.

Crystalline Silica

Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, and other stone products and in operations using sand products (e.g., glass manufacturing and sand blasting).

Inhalation of respirable silica dust can cause lung disease, silicosis, and lung cancer. One study estimates that there may be as many as 7,000 new cases of chronic silicosis each year.

OSHA plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in July 2010 updating its existing permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica.

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Combustible Dust

Materials that may form combustible dust include wood, coal, plastics, spice, starch, flour, feed, grain, fertilizer, tobacco, paper, soap, rubber, drugs, dyes, certain textiles, and metals.

A number of OSHA standards address aspects of this hazard, but OSHA does not have a comprehensive standard. OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in October 2009 and is currently holding stakeholder meetings to evaluate possible regulatory methods, and to request data and comments on issues related to combustible dust.


OSHA and other U.S. agencies have been involved in a long-term project to negotiate a globally harmonized approach to informing workers about chemical hazards. The result is the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

OSHA is revising its hazard communication standard to make it consistent with the GHS. The new standard will include more specific requirements for hazard classification, as well as standardized label components that will provide consistent information and definitions for hazardous chemicals and a standard approach to conveying information on MSDSs.

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Beryllium is a lightweight metal with a wide variety of applications in many industries, including aerospace, telecommunications, and military defense. Chronic beryllium disease occurs when people inhale beryllium dust or fumes; it can take anywhere from a few months to 30 years to develop.

OSHA is developing a rule that would update the PEL.


This chemical is added to foods to impart a buttery flavor. Employee exposure to diacetyl causes obstructive airway disease, often resulting in the disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung.”

OSHA’s planned rulemaking will establish a PEL as well as additional provisions to protect workers from exposure to diacetyl. OSHA is currently working on the proposed regulatory text and developing the health, risk, and feasibility analysis.

Efforts are also under way to streamline the lengthy rulemaking process, so expect to see more action on these and other initiatives during 2010.

On the Advisor agenda for tomorrow is another area where OSHA has been busy—workplace injury and illness rates.

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