EHS Administration, Regulatory Developments

DOL Lists OSHA’s 6 Economically Significant Rulemakings

On February 22, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a list of the department’s economically significant rulemakings, including six at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (88 Fed. Reg. 11252).

The six OSHA rulemakings include two in the prerule stage—process safety management (PSM) and prevention of major chemical accidents and prevention of workplace violence in health care and social assistance—and four rulemakings in the proposed rule stage:

  • Infectious diseases,
  • Communication tower safety,
  • Emergency response, and
  • A tree care industry standard.

The DOL previously released its full semiannual regulatory agenda of the rulemakings it expects to propose, review, or promulgate in the coming year.

PSM. OSHA identified issues related to the modernization of its PSM standard necessary to help prevent major chemical accidents. The U.S. Chemical and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), which investigates chemical plant and refinery accidents, has 15 open recommendations for OSHA to address.

On December 9, 2013, OSHA issued a Request for Information (RFI) for the PSM rulemaking (78 Fed. Reg. 73756) and completed a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review in August 2016. The agency expects to finish analyzing comments this year from an October 21, 2022, stakeholder meeting.

Workplace violence in health care. OSHA currently has no workplace violence standard and cites employers under the General Duty Clause (§5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

On December 7, 2016, OSHA published an RFI (81 Fed. Reg. 88147) seeking information about the history of workplace violence prevention in health care and social assistance, including a discussion of OSHA guidelines initially published in 1996 and updated in 2014, as well as the agency’s §5(a)(1) enforcement in health care. OSHA initiated an SBREFA review in December of last year.

OSHA contends that health care and social assistance have a rate of serious workplace violence incidents that require days off for an injured worker to recuperate that’s more than five times greater than the rate across private industry.

Infectious diseases. Workers in health care and other high-risk workplaces face exposure to infectious diseases that include chickenpox and shingles (varicella disease), measles, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and tuberculosis (TB), as well as new and emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19, pandemic influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

While there is a bloodborne pathogens standard, there is no federal airborne infectious disease standard. OSHA has completed a not-yet-final healthcare COVID-19 standard based partly on its 2021 emergency temporary standard. On December 7, OSHA submitted its final rule for regulatory review at the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

An infectious disease standard could apply to health care, emergency response, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and drug treatment programs, as well as coroners’ offices, laboratories, medical examiners, mortuaries, and pathologists’ offices.

The agency anticipates issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) by September.

Communications tower safety. The communications tower industry is small but has a very high fatality rate that exceeds the construction industry rate. The industry currently must comply with several construction industry standards, and the agency expects to issue an NPRM for an industry-specific standard by March.

Emergency response. The current OSHA standards covering emergency response have not kept pace with developments in emergency response or relevant consensus standards. The agency has held stakeholder and working group meetings and has performed an SBREFA review. It anticipates issuing a proposed standard in September.

Tree care. No federal tree care industry standard exists, but the industry has petitioned for one. The agency expects to issue an NPRM in May.

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