August 11, 2022

OSHA Targets May 2023 for Proposed Rule on Infectious Diseases

OSHA intends to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on infectious diseases in May 2023, according to the Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda, which was most recently updated on June 21 for spring 2022. 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. According to OSHA, control measures for infectious diseases might be necessary in workplaces such as healthcare, emergency response, and “other occupational settings where employees can be at increased risk of exposure to potentially infectious people.” The standard could also apply to settings such as laboratories, coroners’ offices, medical examiners’ offices, and mortuaries.

Other rulemaking activities in the proposed rule stage include rules on communication tower safety, emergency response, tree care, welding in construction confined spaces, and personal protective equipment in construction.

Issues that are earlier in the rulemaking process include workplace violence, heat illness prevention, and blood lead levels for medical removal. According to the regulatory agenda, OSHA is preparing to convene a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel on the topic of workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance next month. 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 comment period for OSHA’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to protect workers from heat hazards in indoor and outdoor work settings closed in January, and the agency is analyzing the feedback it received. And in June, OSHA published an ANPRM that began the rulemaking process for the agency to consider revising its standards for occupational exposure to lead. The ANPRM stems from recent medical research findings that adverse health effects in adults can occur at lower blood lead levels than those required by the agency’s current standards. OSHA is accepting comments related to its ANPRM on lead until Aug. 29.

In the final stages of rulemaking are rules related to COVID-19 in healthcare workplaces and updates to OSHA’s hazard communication standard. The regulatory agenda projects that a final standard to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards will be issued in September. As OSHA continues development of this final standard, it is enforcing the general duty clause and its general standards to help protect healthcare workers from COVID-19. OSHA plans to issue a final rule in December to harmonize its hazard communication standard to the seventh edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), according to the timetable in the regulatory agenda. The update is intended to improve alignment with international trading partners like Canada and to address enforcement policies that have been issued since OSHA first incorporated the third edition of the GHS into its hazard communication standard in 2012. GHS, an international approach to hazard communication, is intended to address criteria for the classification of chemical hazards and provide a harmonized approach to documents such as labels and safety data sheets.

For more information on these and other rules, view the spring 2022 agency rule list for the Department of Labor.