OSHA has been busy the first four months of 2014. The following are six items of particular interest to those in or affiliated with the construction industry.
New Silica Dust Rules
Hearings on the proposed rules closed on April 4, 2014. Additional submissions will be accepted through June 18, 2014. Further action by OSHA is expected by late July or early August. Thus far, there is no reason to expect that the rules as proposed will not be implemented in substantially the same form as proposed.
New Electrical Generation, Transmission, and Distribution Rules
OSHA announced the final rules on April 11, 2014. The revised standards include, among other things, revised approach-distance requirements, new requirements for protecting employees from electric arcs, and new requirements for electrical protective equipment. The new rule applies to general industry and construction.
On April 15, 2014, OSHA commented on the US Department of Transportation’s distracted driving initiative and reminded employers that they must have a distracted driving policy. The failure to have a policy in place that adequately deters distracted driving during work hours will result in citations under the General Duty Clause if an employee is involved in a distracted driving accident.
On April 24, 2014, the Center for Disease Control published a summary of a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study related to ladder fall injuriesin 2011. The study found that work-related ladder fall injuries resulted in 113 fatalities and an estimated 15,460 nonfatal injuries that involved at least one day away from work. That same study also found that an estimated 34,000 nonfatal injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments in 2011. This study will almost certainly trigger OSHA to take an even more critical look at employer’s ladder safety programs, if it does not go so far as to trigger a National Emphasis Program on ladder safety.
June 2 through 6, 2014, has been designated by OSHA as a “safety stand down” relative to falls prevention in construction. Falls are the number on cause of deaths on construction sites and account for one-third of all construction industry workplace deaths. OSHA is encouraging employers to take time to remind employees about safe work practices when working at elevation during this safety stand down.
With summer approaching, all employers with employees who work outdoors should remember that OSHA has devoted substantial efforts to reducing heat-related illness and death and will again be citing employers who do not provide protection against the effects of heat. Last year employers from construction companies to landscapers to roofers to garbage handlers to the US Postal Service were cited in conjunction with employee deaths due to heat or heat-related illnesses.