On December 4, 2014, OSHA held an Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (“ACCSH”) meeting. ACCSH is an advisory body that provides advice and assistance to OSHA regarding construction standards. There are 15 members of this advisory committee and the committee is comprised of representatives for employers, employees, federal, state and public representatives.
ACCSH’s agenda for this meeting included consideration of a new quantitative fit testing protocol, clarification of an employer’s continuing obligation to record injuries and illnesses and OSHA’s temporary worker initiative.
At the outset of the meeting, Assistant Secretary Dr. Michaels provided the committee with an update on various matters, including temporary workers, communication cell towers, confined space in construction and the new reporting requirements. Dr. Michaels highlighted a few agency activities including temporary workers and specifically the agency’s focus on changing the environment in this industry. According to Dr. Michaels “the bottom line is that the host employer has to provide a safe work place.”
Dr. Michaels also highlighted the agency’s efforts regarding communication cell towers, noting that the agency recently held a joint meeting with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) along with representatives from major cell carriers, builders and unions. OSHA anticipates issuing a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register seeking input from impacted stakeholders on various issues related to communication cell towers.
Regarding confined spaces in construction, Dr. Michaels indicated that in November the final rule went to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and since then OSHA has had discussions with OMB about the final rule. Dr. Michaels noted that the final rule is different from the proposed rule and aligns more with the general industry standard. According to Dr. Michaels, while the final rule differs from the proposed rule, he believes that employers will be pleased with the final rule. Dr. Michaels anticipates a final rule will be issued in the next few months.
With respect to the new reporting requirements that take effect January 1, 2015, Dr. Michaels noted that when employers call in to report a reportable event (fatality, amputation, in-patient hospitalization, or eye-loss) that OSHA will engage in a conversation with the employer. According to Dr. Michaels this is a new approach for the agency, however, he claimed that the agency’s objective is to help employers. When OSHA is notified of a reportable event the agency will inquire as to how the event occurred and what type of investigation the employer is or will do to determine the cause. Additionally, Dr. Michaels stated that OSHA will have a new website up by January 1st which will allow employers to report online.
At the conclusion of Dr. Michaels’ presentation the committee was updated on activities within the Directorate of Construction by Director, Mr. Jim Maddux.
Mr. Maddux addressed several questions pertaining to cranes and operator certification. Mr. Maddux was asked whether employers can train crane operators pending a final agency decision on operator certification and, if so, what does adequate training look like. In response, Mr. Maddux referenced the general requirement that crane operators must be competent to do their job and suggested that employers consider some type of assessment of competency such as an interview with the operator to determine whether the operator has the necessary skills to operate a crane. Additionally, Mr. Maddux noted that OSHA anticipates presenting ACCSH with draft regulatory text regarding crane operator certification at the spring ACCSH meeting. The draft regulatory text will address the issue of whether certification of an operator means the operator is qualified to operate the crane, the issue of type and capacity and will also likely provide more explicit training requirements.
Copies of the ACCSH meeting minutes and transcripts from the meeting can be found on online at OSHA’s website.