While not much has changed on OSHA’s list of regulations in the final rule stage from the Fall 2022 Regulatory Agenda to the Spring 2023 Regulatory Agenda, there are four rules that warrant some attention.
Rules in the proposed and pre-rule stages covering infectious diseases, heat illness prevention, prevention of workplace violence in health care, and process safety management (PSM) and prevention of major chemical accidents are worthy of note.
The proposed rule on infectious diseases would focus mainly on “employees in health care and other high-risk environments” who are exposed to hazards such as tuberculosis, measles, influenza and COVID-19.
OSHA is looking at regulatory alternatives for control measures that would protect employees from exposures to these “pathogens that can cause significant disease.”
The agency currently expects that workplaces where such control measures may be necessary could include:
- health care
- emergency response
- correctional facilities
- homeless shelters
- drug treatment programs, and
- other occupational settings where employees can be at increased risk of exposure to potentially infectious people.
The standard could also apply to certain laboratories, pathologists, coroners’ offices, medical examiners, and mortuaries.
A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is scheduled for March 2024.
Heat illness prevention
A standard on heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings is in the pre-rule stage with a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel to be initiated in August 2023.
Heat is the leading weather-related killer, according to OSHA, and it has become more dangerous “as 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest on record.” Excessive hat can cause a host of health problems, including heat stroke and death, if not treated properly.
The agency finds that workers in agriculture and construction are at the highest risk, but the hazard affects all workers exposed to heat, including those working indoors without climate-controlled environments.
California, Washington, Minnesota and the U.S. military have all issued heat protection standards while OSHA continues to rely on the General Duty Clause (GDC) to protect workers from heat-related hazards. However, use of the GDC in these cases has become more difficult after the 2019 Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission decision in Secretary of Labor v. A.H. Sturgill Roofing.
Prevention of workplace violence in health care, social assistance
A standard addressing workplace violence in the health care and social assistance industries is currently in the pre-rule stage.
OSHA issued a Request for Information (RFI) on Dec. 7, 2016, regarding this topic. The RFI solicited information mostly from health care employers, workers and subject matter experts on impacts of violence, prevention strategies and other information the agency deemed useful.
The agency was petitioned for this standard “by a broad coalition of labor unions, and in a separate petition by the National Nurses United,” with petitions granted on Jan. 10, 2017.
OSHA will be analyzing a SBREFA panel report on this potential standard in December 2023.
PSM and prevention of major chemical accidents
OSHA held a stakeholder meeting on PSM and prevention of major chemical accidents in October 2022, with the potential standard still being in the pre-rule stages.
A 2013 RFI on this rule “identified issues related to modernization of the Process Safety Management standard and related standards necessary to meet the goal of preventing major chemical accidents.”
A SBREFA analysis was completed back in August 2016. The agency’s next step is analyzing comments from the stakeholder meeting, which is scheduled to be done by November 2023.
Status of final rules on the 2023 agenda
COVID-19 in health care, injury reporting and HAZCOM rules are all still listed as being in the final rule stage on the Spring 2023 Regulatory Agenda.
The COVID-19 in health care rule is currently scheduled to be published in June 2023. OSHA had sent this proposed permanent COVID-19 healthcare standard to the White House Office of Management and Budget for final review in early December 2022.
OSHA’s Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses standard is also currently scheduled to publish in June 2023.
The agency issued this proposed rule in March 2022, which would amend its injury and illness recordkeeping regulations to require employers with 100 or more employees in certain industries to electronically submit injury and illness data annually. That’s down from the current 250-employee cutoff.
Employers with 20 to 249 employees who are classified in specific industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses won’t see any significant changes to how they report.
An Update to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) is expected to publish in June 2023, as well, which is meant to:
- harmonize the HCS with the seventh edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)
- improve harmonization with international trading partners such as Canada, and
- codify a number of enforcement policies that have been issued since the 2012 standard.