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Understanding OSHA’s Regulatory Agenda

Feb 02, 2024

The semi-annual regulatory agenda for OSHA and MSHA rulemaking activities provides insights and opportunities for safety professionals to both learn about upcoming changes, prepare your organizations and participate in the rulemaking process.

The agenda categorizes information into three categories: final rule stage; proposed rule stage; and prerule stage. The agencies prioritize each of these regulatory actions, and the most meaningful term in this process is “significant” (although less significant regulations still get issued on occasion). The inclusion of an item in the Regulatory Plan” means it is a high priority of the current administration. To learn more about OSHA’s rulemaking process, view this flowchart.

Paul Esposito, CSP, CIH, ASSP’s federal government affairs representative, reviewed the agenda to identify the most notable actions in the final rule stage. This summary is intended to highlight what safety professionals should know about current regulatory actions by OSHA and MSHA and how to prepare your organization for changing requirements.

OSHA Final Rulemaking Actions

The latest agenda includes revisions to OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, hazard communication standard and its standard on COVID-19 exposure in healthcare.

Recordkeeping Standard Took Effect Jan. 1

OSHA published its final rule on July 21, 2023, and it became effective Jan. 1, with data due by March 2. The 2023 final rule makes significant changes to electronic reporting requirements for many establishments covered under OSHA’s recordkeeping standard. It includes changes to the sizes of establishments (by number of employees) that must electronically submit injury and illness data to the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). It adds information reporting requirements to include OSHA 300 and 301 form data depending on establishment size and industry sector. Learn more about the new requirements on OSHA’s website.

Update to Hazard Communication Standard Expected in 2024

OSHA incorporated the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) into its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in March 2012 to specify requirements for hazard classification and standardize label components and information on safety data sheets. At that time, OSHA used the third edition of the GHS. The current rulemaking would harmonize with the seventh edition of the GHS. It is also expected to improve harmonization with international trading partners such as Canada and will codify several enforcement policies issued since 2012. The final standard has been at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review and clearance since Oct. 11, 2023. Issuance is anticipated in 2024, but no timeline for implementation has been published as of now. However, this is not listed as a significant priority and it is not included in the Regulatory Plan.

Occupational Exposure to COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings

Under President Biden’s Executive Order 13999 on Protecting Worker Health and Safety (issued Jan. 21, 2021), OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard to address COVID-19 in healthcare workplaces. OSHA then developed a final standard focused on healthcare workers that was sent to OMB for review in December 2022. However, since the public health emergency ended, no timeline on the next steps is known. It’s important to note that the agency is also working on a more comprehensive infectious disease regulation, but there is not a timeline for that activity. This is listed as a significant priority, but it is not part of the Regulatory Plan.

MSHA Final Rulemaking Actions

Reducing Respirable Crystalline Silica Exposure

Three public hearings were held during summer 2023 to gather input on the existing permissible exposure limit (PEL) on miners’ exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS). The current PEL is 100 micrograms per cubic meter. Based on the agency’s data, as well as related OSHA standards and NIOSH research, MSHA plans to issue a rule — applicable to metal, nonmetal and coal operations — that would lower the PEL to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air for a full shift exposure, calculated as an eight-hour time-weighted average, for all miners. This is listed as a significant priority and is part of the Regulatory Plan. 

Improving the Safety of Surface Mobile Equipment

This final rule took effect Jan. 19, 2024, with a compliance date of July 17, 2024. It requires mine operators that employ six or more miners to develop a written safety program for mobile and powered haulage equipment (excluding belt conveyors) at surface mines and surface areas of underground mines. The programs must include input from miners and their representatives and identify hazards and risks. According to MSHA, the rule takes a flexible approach so that mine operators can develop and implement safety programs that work for their operation, mining conditions and miners.

Testing, Evaluation and Approval of Electric Motor-Driven Mine Equipment and Accessories 

Sets out the testing, evaluation, and approval requirements for electric motor-driven mine equipment and accessories intended for use in gassy mines. During a one-year transition period, line operators could use equipment and accessories that meet either 14 voluntary consensus standards or the existing MSHA approval requirements. After that period, operators would have to use the consensus standards for equipment and accessories covered by consensus standards. This proposal is intended to promote the use of innovative and advanced technologies that lead to improvements in mine safety and health and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of MSHA’s approval process. This is not listed as a significant priority and is not included in the Regulatory Plan.

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