• Government Safety Agencies Set Regulatory Agendas
  • December 13, 2013
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis P.C. - White Plains Office
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are moving ahead with regulatory initiatives that could substantially impact the business community.

    In its regulatory agenda, released November 26, 2013, OSHA listed a number of whistleblower regulations for final action between February 2014 and October 2014. They include protections for employees working in the motor vehicle, health care, consumer financial, financial services and transportation industries. OSHA expects to release a recording-and-reporting final rule, which includes a provision revising reporting requirements when fatalities occur, in April 2014.

    A final rule on confined spaces in construction is coming in February 2014; one to address slips, trip and fall hazards and requirements for personal fall protection systems, in June 2014; and a rule governing both electrical hazards for power line workers and construction hazards associated with electric power transmission and distribution lines, in November 2014.

     Three proposed rules in the pipeline include one dealing with operator certification under OSHA’s cranes and derricks regulation, set for release in December 2013. Another, expected in March 2014, would clarify employers’ continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness. The third, dealing with beryllium, is expected in April 2014.

    OSHA proposes to initiate a small business panel on combustible dust in April 2014 and to issue a proposed rule on injury and illness prevention programs in September 2014. Business interests have expressed strong opposition to both initiatives.

    Likewise, there is strong opposition to two other OSHA proposals. One addresses worker exposure to crystalline silica. A proposal was released in September 2013, but the agency has set no date for release of a final rule. The comment period ends January 27, 2014, and a public hearing has been set for March 2014. Further, no date was provided for a final rule designed to improve tracking of occupational injuries and illnesses. Businesses oppose the November 2013 proposal over concern that sensitive injury and illness information released by OSHA to the public will be used against them.

    MSHA’s regulatory schedule includes a final rule on miners’ exposure to respirable coal dust, released in December 2013. Coal interests oppose it as being too costly and not likely to achieve its goal of curbing black lung disease. MSHA expects to release a final rule on a proximity detection proposal addressing hazards around continuous mining machines in underground coal mines in February 2014.

    A second proximity detection initiative, directed at mobile machines in underground mines, carries a May 2014 release date. The anticipated release of a proposed rule to amend MSHA’s criteria and procedures for assessing civil penalties is expected in December 2013. MSHA said its purpose is to revise the process for proposing penalties “to improve the efficiency of the Agency’s efforts and to facilitate the resolution of enforcement issues.”

    A proposal governing fees for testing, evaluating and approving mining products could appear in December 2013, while a proposed rule on respirable crystalline silica is coming in June 2014, MSHA said.

    The agency also announced it would issue a request for information (RFI) in March 2014 to assist MSHA in preparing regulatory actions in response to recommendations from its investigation into the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion. Finally, comments in response to an RFI on refuge alternatives that was released in August should be submitted by December 16, 2013.