OSHA Rules on Emergency Response, Workplace Violence Stalled

Published June 6, 2019

OSHA rulemaking activities related to emergency response and workplace violence remain in the pre-rule stage on the agency’s spring 2019 regulatory agenda, which was released in late May.

In fall 2018, OSHA acknowledged that current agency standards do not address the full range of hazards or concerns currently faced by emergency responders and do not reflect “major changes” in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment. The agency is considering updating these standards. The next step in the federal rulemaking process, convening a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel, was originally scheduled to take place in October 2018. The new regulatory agenda notes that the SBREFA panel was scheduled for last month—May 2019.

The projected date for convening a SBREFA panel on an OSHA standard focused on the prevention of workplace violence in healthcare and social assistance has been delayed from March to October 2019. OSHA first published an RFI in December 2016 to gather information on workplace violence and prevention strategies from healthcare employers, workers, and other subject matter experts. The comment period ended in April 2017. A broad coalition of labor unions and National Nurses United, the largest organization of registered nurses in the U.S., separately petitioned OSHA for a standard to prevent workplace violence in healthcare. OSHA granted the petitions in January 2017.

The fall 2018 regulatory agenda first indicated OSHA’s plans to propose revisions to certain provisions in its general industry standard on occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds. According to the spring 2019 agenda, the planned revisions “are generally designed to clarify the standard in response to stakeholder questions or to simplify compliance, while in all cases maintaining a high degree of protection from the adverse health effects of beryllium exposure.” OSHA is currently reviewing comments it received in response to its 2018 notice of proposed rulemaking and intends to issue a final rule by December 2019.

OSHA’s rulemaking on occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds in the construction and shipyard sectors remains in the final rule stage. The agency previously proposed to revoke ancillary provisions such as housekeeping and personal protective equipment for the construction and shipyard sectors. The spring 2019 agenda states that OSHA has evidence that beryllium exposure in these sectors “occurs almost exclusively during abrasive blasting and welding operations” and that the agency has “a number of standards already specifically applicable to these operations.” OSHA is reconsidering the need for ancillary provisions in the beryllium standards in the construction and shipyards sectors, and is reviewing comments received in response to its proposal to finalize the rulemaking by December 2019. The previous regulatory agenda projected that the rule would be finalized by June 2019.

For more information, view the spring 2019 agency rule list for the Department of Labor.