December 16, 2021

OSHA Is Working on a Proposed Rule on Infectious Diseases

OSHA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on infectious diseases, according to the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda, which was most recently updated on Dec. 10 for fall 2021. The regulatory agenda states that OSHA is “examining regulatory alternatives for control measures to protect employees from infectious disease exposures to pathogens that can cause significant disease.” The agency is considering long-standing infectious disease hazards like tuberculosis and measles as well as new and emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and pandemic influenza. OSHA’s timetable indicates that the agency plans to issue the NPRM in April 2022. Other rulemaking activities in the proposed rule stage include rules on communication tower safety, welding in construction confined spaces, personal protective equipment in construction, and updates to OSHA’s hazard communication standard.

Issues that are earlier in the rulemaking process include workplace violence and heat illness prevention. OSHA is preparing to convene a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel on the topic of workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance. The agency first published a request for information in 2016 to gather information on workplace violence and prevention strategies from healthcare employers, workers, and other subject matter experts. The topic of heat illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings appeared for the first time on the regulatory agenda this spring. The comment period for OSHA’s rulemaking to protect workers from heat hazards allows stakeholders until Jan. 26, 2022, to weigh in on the agency’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking, which was published in late October.

A forthcoming NPRM issued by MSHA will address the existing permissible exposure limit of respirable crystalline silica for miners and update certain existing respiratory protection standards. According to the regulatory agenda, the agency intends to issue the NPRM in May 2022. This announcement follows the publication of a report by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) that concluded that MSHA needs to improve its efforts to protect coal miners from exposures to respirable crystalline silica. According to OIG’s report, MSHA’s current silica exposure limit is out of date, and “a significant body of evidence shows that lowering the silica limit would be a major factor in preventing coal workers’ deaths and illnesses caused by silica exposure.” The regulatory agenda item for MSHA’s rulemaking on respirable crystalline silica states that the agency will develop a rule applicable to metal, nonmetal, and coal operations.

For more information, view the fall 2021 agency rule list for the Department of Labor.