June 22, 2021 / Kay Bechtold

The Monthly Weekly: What’s New at OSHA?

Editor’s note: The Monthly Weekly is an occasional feature that reviews the previous month’s news coverage from The Synergist Weekly newsletter.

OSHA topped headlines when the agency announced earlier this month that it would issue an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from contracting SARS-CoV-2. The ETS, which became effective yesterday, June 21, upon publication in the Federal Register, focuses on workers in healthcare settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated. Employers must comply with all requirements of the ETS, except for provisions regarding physical barriers, ventilation, and training, by July 6, 2021. The compliance date for all requirements is July 21, 2021. OSHA is accepting written comments on aspects of the ETS and whether it should become a final rule until July 21. AIHA intends to submit comments, so keep an eye on The Synergist Weekly for news about those.

While the announcement of the COVID-19 ETS is OSHA’s most anticipated news, it’s far from the only recent update from the agency. Here, SynergistNOW highlights additional OSHA developments.

New COVID-19 guidance for general industry. In addition to the ETS, OSHA has published new general industry guidance for employers and workers not covered by the standard. OSHA’s new guidance focuses on COVID-19 exposure risks to unvaccinated workers or otherwise at-risk workers, including those with medical conditions that may affect their ability to have a full immune response to vaccination.

Potential rulemaking on heat illness prevention. The topic of heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings appears for the first time on the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda, which was most recently updated on June 11 for spring 2021. According to the agenda, OSHA plans to issue a request for information in October of this year to “begin a dialogue and engage with stakeholders to explore the potential for rulemaking” on heat illness prevention.

Senate committee approves Biden’s pick to head federal OSHA. On June 16, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee voted 13–9 to approve President Joe Biden’s nomination of Doug Parker as the new assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. The committee’s approval advances Parker’s nomination to the full chamber. Parker is chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), and previously served as executive director of Worksafe, a legal services provider based in Oakland, California. OSHA has been without a permanent administrator since David Michaels resigned in 2017.

Walking-working surfaces standard update. A proposed rule announced by OSHA on May 20 would update certain handrail and stair rail system requirements for the agency’s general industry walking-working surfaces standard. OSHA’s proposal seeks to clarify two of the standard’s provisions. Stakeholders are encouraged to submit comments regarding the proposed language by July 19.

Hearing on hazard communication standard. OSHA will hold an informal hearing in September to discuss proposed updates to the agency’s hazard communication standard. OSHA’s proposed rulemaking would update its hazard communication standard to align with the seventh revision of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

Guidance and resources on beryllium. New guidance and resources recently published by OSHA are intended to help employers and others protect workers from occupational exposure to beryllium. Newly published items include interim enforcement guidance for provisions in two final rules for beryllium issued last year by OSHA, a new guide for small businesses intended to help them comply with the 2020 final rule for beryllium in general industry, two new “QuickCards” for workers, and new guidance for beryllium-exposed workers that explains certain medical surveillance requirements in OSHA’s standards.

Additional OSHA developments were discussed at Virtual AIHce EXP 2021, where attendees heard from three representatives from the agency’s Salt Lake Technical Center who reviewed OSHA’s efforts to update methods for industrial hygiene sampling and laboratory analysis. According to one of the presenters, the updates will benefit both field industrial hygienists and the labs that analyze IH samples by ensuring consistent procedures are used across laboratories for several of OSHA’s most used methods.

What news coverage is most helpful to you? Let us know in the comments or send an email to The Synergist.

Kay Bechtold

Kay Bechtold is the managing editor of The Synergist.


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