Twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, federal executive agencies, including OSHA, publish their expected rulemaking activity. Last week the Fall 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions was released. This agenda lays out the regulatory priorities of over 60 federal agencies, departments, and commissions for the next 12 months and includes nineteen agenda items specific to OSHA.
Of note, OSHA plans to initiate a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (“SBREFA”) review panel in January 2020 for a standard that would address workplace violence in the health care and social services industries. The January 2020 date is an extension of the original October 2019 deadline that was outlined in the spring 2019 regulatory agenda. The initiation of the review panel comes as the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would require OSHA to develop a standard on the same issue. For more information on the House bill, click here to read an OSHA Law Blog post outlining the bill.
Additionally, OSHA plans to begin the process of analyzing comments that it received from requests for information regarding revisions to its lockout/tagout and powered industrial truck regulations. OSHA is seeking to revise both regulations as evolving technologies have affected each. OSHA hopes to bring both of the regulations up to date and in line with current consensus standards.
The fall regulatory agenda also included the anticipated promulgation of proposed rules. Specifically, OSHA intends to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking in April 2020 for its walking-working surfaces rule to clarify its requirements for stair rail systems. The Agency intents to clarify the requirement in light of having received feedback from stakeholders that the requirements were unclear. OSHA also intends to release a proposed rule amending the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard in May 2020. According to the agenda, the proposed amendments will include “correct[ing] references to power line voltage for direct current (DC) voltages as well as alternating current (AC) voltages; broaden[ing] the exclusion for forklifts carrying loads under the forks from ‘winch or hook’ to a ‘winch and boom’; [and] clarify[ing] an exclusion for work activities by articulating cranes” among other various corrections to the standard. The agenda also includes proposed rules for Communication Tower Safety, Welding in Construction Confined Spaces, Occupational Exposure to Beryllium and Beryllium Compounds in Construction and Shipyard Sectors, updates to the Powered Industrial Trucks standard to incorporate consensus standard provisions related to the design and construction of powered industrial trucks, and updates to the Hazard Communication Standard.
In addition to the upcoming proposed rules, OSHA has several agenda items that are in the pre-rule stage. These items include initiation a SBREFA panel in August 2020 for an Emergency Response rule, a July 2020 request for information for updates to the Mechanical Power Press rule, and the issuance of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in September 2020 for the Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal rule.
While the rulemaking process moves at a slow pace, employers should remain informed on OSHA’s anticipated regulatory actions and should consider participating in the rulemaking process to ensure their interests are made known and protected.