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Silica, Beryllium Top 2016 OSHA List

Monday, January 4, 2016

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As 2015 came to a close, new rules on silica, beryllium and record-keeping were among those on the horizon—but not final yet.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced the status of several regulatory actions that could affect the coatings industry during the New Year. Those actions were part of the list that the Department of Labor recently released in its Fall 2015 agenda.

The semi-annual list includes rules on which OSHA intended to take some kind of action by the end of 2015 and those that were expected to see a status update in 2016. A few of those rules will affect the coatings industry more than others, while some will have little to no impact on those who work with coatings.

PaintSquare News evaluated the list for the rules most likely to have an impact on its readers and pulled them out into the following report.


OSHA expects its long-awaited rule on crystalline silica to become final in March. The agency sent its proposed rule to the Obama Administration last month.

OSHA breaks up its regulatory action into three categories: Prerule Stage; Proposed Rule Stage; and Final Rule Stage. Only one rule that the agency plans to implement this year is more specific for those who work with coatings. A few others could be finalized in 2016 and some—which have been on the agency’s long-term plan for years—may see their first action this year.

Final Rulemaking

Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica—The long-awaited changes to silica exposure are expected to become a final rule in March. As previously reported, the new Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica rule includes two separate standards—one for general industry and maritime employment, and one for construction—that would have widespread impact on the industrial coating, commercial coating, and abrasive-blasting industries.

According to The Hill, the Department of Labor sent the final rule to the Obama Administration on Dec. 21. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget has 90 days to review the new standards.

If approved, the new rule would limit worker exposure to a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour day—a sharp reduction from the current limits.

The agency has also proposed an action level of 25 μg/m3, which would trigger the proposed rule’s exposure monitoring provisions.

Proposed Rule Stage

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium—This rule that would reduce worker exposure to beryllium also has been expected for a long time. Although as previously reported it would not affect the construction, abrasive blasting or maritime industries, OSHA has said those who work in those industries already are covered by other regulations.

© / shime02

The new rule is not expected to affect the coatings industry (which is covered under other standards), but OSHA is expected to review comments and schedule rulemaking this year on berylium exposure.

The agency was expected to analyze comments on the rule by the end of December. A timeline for the final rule was expected to be set early this year.

Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness—As with the rule on beryllium, analysis of comments was supposed to wrap up by the end of 2015 and OSHA was supposed to set a final rule timeline. That didn’t happen, but this rule has been particularly controversial.

As previously reported, the rule was made to work around the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s decision in AKM, LLC dba Volks Constructors v. Secretary of Labor. The court rejected OSHA’s efforts to extend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970’s six-month statute of limitations.

Although the new rule does not change those compliance obligations, it attempts to clarify the language in the act so that the agency's intent would be conveyed and to ensure proper implementation.

Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol: Amendment to the Final Rule on Respiratory Protection—According to OSHA, the agency received a submission to consider three new quantitative fit test protocols that reduce the time required to complete the fit test while maintaining acceptable test sensitivity, specificity and predictive value.

© / Terry J Alcorn

OSHA expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amed the Quantitative Fit Protocol for respirators. The rule is designed to help employers and employees select respirators.

The agency also said employers, employees and safety and health professionals use fit testing to select respirators. OSHA relies on fit testing methods specified in Appendix A of the final revised Respiratory Protection standard. The agency also said that when it made the final Respiratory Protection standard in 1998, it allowed for later rulemaking on new fit test protocols.

OSHA expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in March.

Pre-Rule Process

Other rules are expected see their first steps this year. They include:

  • Combustible dust for general industry—OSHA expects to conduct a review in August of this proposed rule under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). According to OSHA, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board completed a study of combustible dust hazards in late 2006, which identified 281 combustible dust incidents between 1980 and 2005 that killed 119 workers and injured another 718. Based on these findings, the CSB recommended the Agency pursue a rulemaking on this issue. In 2014, the agency listed this rule on its long-term plans with an “indefinite” delay.
  • Chemical Management and Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs)—The comment period on this rule to update PELs for a variety of chemicals—some of which would affect the coatings and construction industry—ended in October 2015. OSHA was expected to review comments by April. As previously reported in 2014, OSHA attempted to update or set new PELS for more than 350 chemicals in a single rulemaking in 1989. Although the agency presented analyses of the risks associated with these chemicals, as well as the feasibility and economic impacts, the analyses were not as detailed as those for individual rulemakings. The entire rulemaking was ultimately vacated by the court.
  • Shipyard Fall Protection—According to OSHA, the existing 29 CFR part 1915, subpart E—Scaffolds Ladders and Other Working Surfaces—is not comprehensive in their coverage of fall hazards in shipyards. The new rule would be updated to reflect technical advances and break the rule into two additional subparts: subpart E would cover Stairways, Ladders and Other Access and Egress; subpart M, Fall Protection; and subpart N, Scaffolds. OSHA is expected to issue a Request for Information during March 2016.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Beryllium; Combustible Dust; Construction chemicals; Department of Labor; Ethics; Fall protection; Fatalities; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Ladders; Marine Coatings; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Respirators; Respiratory Protection Standard; Scaffolding; Shipyards; Silica

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