Discover how current and upcoming rules and regulations will affect your precast business.
By Evan Gurley
With 2015 well underway, it’s time to think about what the future will hold for Occupational Safety & Health Administration rules and regulations. This is the year of inspections. In the 2014 fiscal year, there were 36,163 OSHA Federal inspections and 47,217 State Plan inspections. According to the OSHA budget justification, the organization plans to increase the number of health inspections as a result of increased identified health issues. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Precasters who feel there’s a new regulation looming every time they turn around are not just imagining an increase. Federal agencies issued 3,659 final rules in 2013. These rules, along with proposed rules and executive orders, filled 80,224 pages of the Federal Register, a 3.8 % increase over 2012. This year is projected to be on pace with previous years. The Department of Labor stated that the regulations it is pursuing in 2015 are part of a plan/prevent/protect approach, “designed to ensure employers and other regulated entities are in full compliance with the law every day, not just when the Department of Labor engages an employer.”
On Nov. 21, 2014, the Department of Labor released its Agency Rule List, which provides the status of all rulemaking efforts of its agencies. OSHA dominated the list of regulatory activity, listing 26 regulations in the pre-rule, proposed rule and final rule stages.
To view the complete listing of OSHA regulations click here.
Of these 26 items, OSHA announced that its top regulatory priorities for 2015 include:
- Efforts to control exposure to crystalline silica.
- Enhancements to current infectious disease protocols in health care and other high-risk environments.
- Issuance of a final rule modernizing its reporting system for occupational injuries and illnesses, requiring electronic submission of injury and illness survey data, which, notably would be made publicly available.
- Issuance of final rules regarding procedures for handling whistleblower complaints under nine of the 22 federal statutes that include whistleblower protection provisions that OSHA has been tasked with investigating and enforcing.
OSHA plans to finalize some key rules in 2015. The rules are:
- Confined spaces in construction. OSHA issued a new final rule for confined space operations in the construction industry.
- Improve record keeping of workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA issued a final rule that requires employers to electronically submit certain information from the OSHA 300 Log, OSHA 301 Incident Report and OSHA 300A Summary.
- Walking, working surfaces and personal fall protection systems. OSHA plans to implement a new rule that will help prevent slip, trip and fall hazards. It will also create clear requirements for personal fall protection systems.
Besides finalizing some existing issues, OSHA has other irons in the fire. Some key proposed rules for 2015 are:
- Amendments to the cranes and derricks in construction standard. OSHA is planning to amend the August 2010 final standard for cranes and derricks.
- Updating OSHA standards for eye and face protection. OSHA hopes to present a final rule that will update its policies with regard to eye and face protection.
- Preventing spread of infectious diseases. OSHA is currently creating a standard process for protecting workers from exposure to illnesses such as tuberculosis, measles, varicella and many more. Analysis for the proposed rule began in May under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.
- Preventing accidents and injuries from vehicles backing up. OSHA is currently in the research stage with this proposed rule. It is compiling information on backover injuries as well as collecting information on the hazards of reinforced steel and concrete operations.
OSHA rules that could significantly affect the precast industry
Occupational exposure to crystalline silica
In 2013, OSHA proposed a new Permissible Exposure Limit for respirable crystalline silica (quarts, cristobalite and tridymite) of 50 micrograms per cubic meter in all industry sectors covered by the rule. For the precast industry, the current rule is for 100 micrograms per cubic meter – the proposal rule would cut the exposure level in half. OSHA is also proposing other elements of a comprehensive health standard, including requirements for exposure assessment, preferred methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, hazard communication and record keeping. Under the proposed rule, precasters would be obligated to monitor the airborne concentration of silica released above the action level of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.
While this proposal is in the final rule stage, there’s some question on whether the current administration will finish the rulemaking process by January 2017. The regulatory agenda does not offer a date for a final rule.
After publishing a proposed rule in September 2013, OSHA received more than 1,700 comments from the public and more than 200 stakeholders provided testimony during public hearings on the proposal. In the coming months, the agency will review and consider the evidence in the rulemaking record. Based on this review, OSHA will determine an appropriate course of action with regard to workplace exposure to crystalline silica.
A report released March 26, 2015, by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition found that the OSHA proposed silica standard for the U.S. construction industry will cost the industry $5 billion per year – roughly $4.5 billion per year more than OSHA’s original estimates. The coalition cautioned that the incorrect cost estimate reflected deeper flaws in the rule and urged the federal agency to reconsider its approach.
According to the CISC report, the OSHA analysis included major errors and omissions that account for the large discrepancies with the CISC report. The CISC report estimates that about 80% ($3.9 billion per year) of the cost will be direct compliance expenditures by the industry such as additional equipment, labor and record keeping costs. The remaining 20% ($1.05 billion per year) will come in the form of increased prices that the industry will have to pay for construction materials and building products. CISC claims that OSHA failed to take into account these additional costs to the construction industry that will result from the proposed standard, which will then be passed down to customers in the form of higher prices.
Currently, OSHA estimates the rule will cost the average facility $1,242 per year. The cost for small facilities with fewer than 20 employees will be about $550. But if OSHA’s original estimates are off by $4.5 billion per year, these estimated yearly costs could be much higher than projected.
Both OSHA and the White House say the silica rule will be finalized before the end of the Obama administration, according to Aaron Trippler, government affairs director for the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Trippler said that “everything seemed to be in place for publishing the final rule,” but this was before the construction industry asked OSHA to consider new data that shows the agency significantly underestimated the cost of the final rule. This puts OSHA on the spot. If the agency reopens rulemaking to review the data, the delay could push finalization beyond 2016. But if the agency ignores the request, the construction industry might have a challenge it can take to court to halt the final rule.
Crane operator qualification in construction
On Nov. 8, 2010, the new federal OSHA Cranes and Derricks in Construction rule (29CFR1926.1400 Subpart CC) went into effect. The new federal law requires:
- Mandatory training of your entire job site workforce on the steps and procedures when operating cranes in the proximity of energized power lines.
- Mandatory training of your entire job site workforce on the hazards of working around cranes on the job site.
- Qualified riggers with mandatory training and qualification of any persons who attach loads to the crane’s hook, detach loads from the crane’s hook and rig loads for cranes.
- Qualified signal persons and spotters with mandatory training and qualification of any persons who provide signaling or spotting for maintaining clearances from overhead power lines to or for the crane operators.
- Certified or qualified crane operators with mandatory Crane Operator National Training and Certification except for the equipment and tasks exempted from the certification requirement requiring operator training and qualification.
All of these rules are currently in effect except the certified or qualified crane operator portion of the federal rule. On Sept. 25, 2014, OSHA issued a final rule extending the deadline for crane operator certification requirements in the Cranes and Derricks in Construction final rule. The rule also extended the employer’s responsibility by three years to ensure that crane operators are competent to safely operate a crane.
During the three-year period, OSHA will address operator qualification requirements for the cranes standards, including the role of operator certification. The final cranes and derricks rule required crane operators meet one of four qualification/certification options by Nov. 10, 2014. After publishing the final rule, NPCA and a number of other industry parties raised concerns about the standard’s requirement to certify operators by type and capacity of crane. After hearing concerns that the qualification/certification options presented by OSHA did not entirely align with the precast concrete industry, OSHA decided to delay the certification requirement until November 2017, reducing the disruption to the construction industry that the original compliance date imposed.
Since the delay, NPCA has been working with industry crane operator certifying bodies to develop a boom truck-specific certification that is appropriate for the precast concrete industry and to give plants more time to prepare their operators for the certification. The first phase of a boom truck- specific certification has been developed and the second phase will be released in 2015.
While this rule remains in the “proposed rule stage” within OSHA, it was on the top 26 priorities list for the fall 2014 agenda meaning OSHA is determined to push this forward.
It is clear that OSHA has an extremely ambitious plan for 2015. But those priorities are not the only things to keep your eyes on. Experts speculate that OSHA will attempt to address the issue of blood-borne pathogens within the year. OSHA has also released a new education bulletin on injury recording for temporary workers for 2015. It is specifically designed to protect temporary workers in the workplace through outreach and training. With 2015 in full swing, it will be important to keep up to date with OSHA in the coming year.
Evan Gurley is a technical services engineer with NPCA.