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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

DOL Regulations - Live Q&A Session with OSHA - Static Version

Monday, April 26, 1 p.m. EDT

Please note that input received during the course of this web chat is not part of the formal rulemaking process. You can find DOL’s proposed regulations, and submit comments, by visiting www.regulations.gov.

How to Participate

  • Enter your question directly into the live chat window found on the interactive page.
  • E-mail us at webmaster@dol.gov

You can also use the interactive page to enter your questions.

12:55 Moderator: Welcome! We'll get started at 1 p.m. EDT, but you can send your questions at any time. This is a text-only Q & A, so there won't be any audio or video.

1:03 Comment From Kyle Morrison: Several items were withdrawn from this agenda due to “resource constraints and other priorities.” What are these priorities, and how much will OSHA be able to advance them by withdrawing these other items?

1:03 David: Kyle, Thank you for your question. OSHA only has resources available to work on a certain number of standards at the current time. We have decided to remove some items from the regulatory agenda where we do not currently have the resources to move them forward in the near future. This does not preclude adding those items back on to the regulatory agenda as resources permit.

1:04 David Michaels: This is Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, David Michaels. Welcome to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Web Chat on the Spring 2010 Regulatory Agenda.

The Secretary’s vision of Good Jobs for Everyone requires a safe and healthy workplace for all workers. OSHA’s regulatory program is intended to further this objective through aggressively pursuing rulemaking aimed at improving and modernizing workplace health and safety. OSHA has set an ambitious Spring Agenda that includes 24 regulatory projects, two of which are new, high priority actions. These items are Injury and Illness Prevention Programs and Recordkeeping-Modernizing OSHA’s Reporting Systems.

Keeping with Secretary’s vision OSHA’s new projects will build upon the existing efforts to modernize America’s workplaces and bring them into the 21st Century. These rulemakings are designed to strengthen the workers voice in the workplace as well as enable workers and employers to find workplace hazards and create solutions that prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

This regulatory agenda only represents those items in which we are moving aggressively forward on at this time. OSHA does not have the resources to move forward aggressively on all rulemaking necessary to address all the pressing workplace health and safety hazards. These are very challenging decisions when American workers are being killed, injured or made ill on the job every day by a variety of hazards.

Stakeholder involvement in the regulatory process and in open discourse are essential. With that being said now, let's begin.

1:06 Comment From Kyle Morrison: OSHA has called the combustible dust standard a main priority and one the agency wants to move quickly on, but this latest agenda places the rulemaking in long-term action. Why was this done?

1:06 David: Kyle, Thanks for this question as well. Combustible dust is a priority. However, this is a very complex rule and we are actively doing the necessary research to support this rule. The only reason this is in a long-term action is because the next step, SBREFA Panel Review, is a year out. April 2011 is as soon as we can do the necessary work to initiate a SBREFA review.

1:07 Comment From Guest: Why was hearing conservation in construction withdrawn? Many people supported it at OSHA Listens.

1:07 David: OSHA has decided to remove items from the regulatory agenda where resource constraints prohibit us from moving aggressively forward in the near future. OSHA understands, however, the serious health threat that noise exposure presents to construction workers. For that reason, OSHA will be increasing enforcement under its existing noise standard (1926.52) until such time that resources allow us to work aggressively on this standard.

1:08 Comment From Eric Frumin: What are the most important improvements you hope to achieve in modernizing the data system for workplace safety, and how will these improvements help employers and their workers themselves establish the kinds of Injury/Illness Prevention programs that will protect workers without workers having to wait for OSHA inspectors to intervene directly?

1:08 David: Thank you for your question. Injury tracking and analysis are important tools for employers, workers, and OSHA. They help identify the causes of injuries and therefore are very important in injury prevention. Currently, OSHA only requires recording injuries on paper. We believe that moving to a more modern, electronic system will provide information to employers and workers that can be used in real time to investigate and prevent injuries. It will also help OSHA target those workplaces where workers are at greatest risk for injury.

1:08 Comment From Laura Walter: OSHA officials have stressed that while there is no immediate plan for an ergonomics regulation, ergonomics remains a priority. In addition to adding an MSDS column to the 300 log, in what other ways does OSHA intend to address ergonomics?

1:08 David: Laura, Thanks for your question. In addition to adding an MSDS column to the 300 log, OSHA will be increasing its enforcement of ergonomic hazards under its General Duty Clause. We are continuing to consider additional approaches to addressing ergonomic hazards.

1:13 Comment From Bill Kojola: You've added an important new regulatory initiative to the agenda - Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Can you tell us when and where the stakeholder meetings will be held and is it OSHA's intent to move forward with formal rulemaking on this issue in a timely manner?

1:13 David: OSHA plans to conduct stakeholder meetings in June. They will be held in New Jersey, Texas and Washington, D.C. A Federal Register notice announcing the details will be published soon.

1:14 Comment From Laura Walter: Beryllium has been on the agenda for many years now. What is causing the delay and how does OSHA intend to move forward on this standard?

1:14 David: Beryllium presents a number of unique and complex scientific challenges. However, we are moving forward aggressively and just recently initiated the peer review of the health effects and risk assessment. At the same time, we are drafting a proposed rule which will incorporate comments from our peer review when it is completed later this year.

1:14 David: Kyle, thanks for your question. Yes, we will be publishing a proposed rule in November that will convert the industry partial exemption list from SIC to NAICS. This rule will also propose revisions to fatality and injury reporting requirements. We are proposing revising the existing hospitalization and fatality reporting requirements to more efficiently target high hazard employers.

1:16 Comment From Jignesh Kahodariya: how new stratagy (Plan, Prevent and Protect) is going to make difference compared to existing regulations?

1:16 David: Jignesh, Thank you for your question. The Labor Department's new enforcement strategy - Plan, Prevent, Protect - is an effort designed to expand and strengthen worker protections through a new OSHA standard that would require each employer to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program tailored to the actual hazards in that employer's workplace. Instead of waiting for an OSHA inspection or a workplace incident to address workplace hazards, employers would be required to create a plan for identifying and correcting hazards, and then implement this plan. Workers would participate in developing and implementing such a plan. This common sense rule will be asking employers to find the hazards present in their worksites that may injure or kill workers and then fix those hazards.

1:17 Comment From Jignesh Kahodariya: How the new stratagy is going to affect pharmacetucal industries?

1:17 David: That's a very good question. One challenge OSHA has faced is developing standards that address hazards in diverse industries. The i2p2 proposal will enable employers in all types of industries to develop injury and illness prevention programs that address the hazards specific to each workplace. This will be especially important in industries like the pharmaceutical industry, where any one factory may make a product that is not produced anywhere else.

1:17 Comment From Keith Smith, NAM: Regarding OSHA's proposed efforts on a "Injury and Illness Prevention Program" - this initiative looks to provide employers with resources to better recognize risks in the workplace but also include language (per the fact sheet) of elements to require systematically identify and remediate risks to workers. Many employers already have extensive safety & health programs in place to achieve this goal. What types of resources will be provided to assist these employers? Also, how will this proposal be different from a safety and health program standard?

1:17 David: Thanks Keith these are good questions. There are a number of issues that we will need to work out regarding this important standard, including what kind of resources businesses and workers will need to make these programs successful. For that reason we are scheduling a series of stakeholder meetings across the country to start getting input.

1:20 Comment From Laura Walter: Why has OSHA not addressed updating the PELs in this agenda? How does OSHA intend to move forward on this issue?

1:20 David: Updating PELs is not a simple undertaking and previous regulatory efforts to do so have not been successful. While OSHA has not made a determination how to proceed, we are looking at strategies that will better address chemical exposures in the workplace. Currently, OSHA is engaging stakeholders in discussions to explore such strategies, with the "OSHA Listens" event being the start of that process. We also think that implementation of an i2p2 regulation will help address this problem. Employers will assess the chemical-related risks in each workplace whether or not we have a PEL for the chemicals to which workers are exposed.

1:23 Moderator: The link to the Infectious Diseases fact sheet on our Regulations page was pointing to the wrong file. The link has been corrected, but here is a direct link: http://www.dol.gov/regulations/factsheets/osha-fs-infection-diseases.htm

1:24 Comment From Tony: When will the Final Rule regarding the GHS regulation be released?

1:24 David: We have not projected a date for the final standard at this time. However, we just recently completed the public hearing in March and the post-comment period ends May 31. We will be working quickly to respond to comments provided during the public comment period so that we can finalize the standard as soon as possible.

1:26 Comment From Bill Borwegen: Some wonder why a safety and health program wasn't the first OSHA standard to be issued back in 1971. Since OSHA has already held numerous stakeholder meetings on this topic a number of years ago, is there a way to expedite the promulgation of this important rule?

1:26 David: Bill, Thank you for your question. Requiring employers to "find and fix" the hazards in their workplaces does represent a major paradigm shift for OSHA. I believe it is long overdue. At the OSHA Listens session that we held in March, we heard from employers, unions, and safety and health professionals that a program standard is badly needed. Unfortunately, the administrative requirements that we must meet to put out any new standard are cumbersome and extensive. As much as we would like to go more quickly, it will still require many months of work to issue the standard. Our first step is a series of stakeholder meetings and we hope to gain insight and input from all interested parties.

1:27 Comment From Laura Walter: Would ergonomic risks be addressed in the proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program’s requirements for employers?

1:27 Comment From Greg Hellman, BNA: OSHA has placed an injury and illness prevention program rule on its agenda for the first time. Could such a rule address musculoskeletal disorders in some way?

1:27 David: The i2p2 standard is not a substitute for other OSHA standards. It provides a mechanism to achieve the culture change needed in this country to effectively address workplace safety and health issues. It will be the employer's responsibility to identify all hazards in their workplace, which may include ergonomics, falls, amputations, electrocutions, work-related respiratory disease (such as occupational asthma), etc. The i2p2 standard simply provides a mechanism for employers to identify hazards; however, the control of those hazards will be required by existing OSHA standards and the general duty clause, as is currently the case.

1:29 Comment From KELLIE: I would like to know if OSHA will be ruling on a Silica standard this year and if the proposed decrease in the PEL will become a reality. Since most if not all cases of silicosis is due to exposure over the PEL it does not seem necessary but I would like to know the current stance of OSHA. thank you

1:29 David: Thank you, Kellie, for this question. As the regulatory agenda indicates, OSHA is projecting a February 2011 date for publication of a proposed rule. At this time, OSHA has not made a final decision on a proposed PEL and is continuing to develop its analyses of health risks and technological and economic feasibility of regulatory alternatives. The outcome of these analyses will guide the agency in its determination regarding a proposed PEL.

1:31 Comment From Debbie: I was glad to see that a final rule can soon be expected on cranes and derricks, but it looks like a rule on confined spaces is still a long way off. Can you provide any estimate of when a final rule might be issued? Also, it was gratifying to see that the rulemaking proceeding on diacetyl (which causes "popcorn lung") is still progressing forward. Any estimates of when that rule might be forthcoming? Thanks.

1:31 David: Debbie, Thank you. I will answer the first part of your question. OSHA is working hard to review and analyze the record for confined spaces rulemaking and will make decisions regarding the content of the final rule based on this analysis.

1:31 Comment From Bill Kojola: Today's regulatory agenda includes "Infectious Diseases" among the items OSHA is working on. The Fall 2009 agenda instead listed "Airborne Infectious Diseases". Does this change indicate that the agency is looking to broaden the route of exposures being considered to include routes other than airborne (i.e. direct contact)?

1:32 Comment From Joan Flynn: Thank you for correcting the link. California last year implemented an airborne infectious disease standard for health care and other settings. Is OSHA planning to use the California standard as a model or template for a federal standard?

1:32 David: Bill and Joan, thanks for the questions. In the last regulatory agenda, OSHA announced the addition of Airborne Infectious Diseases to OSHA's list of rulemaking projects. OSHA has changed the name of the regulatory agenda entry because OSHA is interested in addressing the hazards of other infectious diseases. In addition, OSHA is interested in whether current infectious control measures are adequate to assure the prevention of occupationally-acquired infections among exposed employees. The RFI is currently under review by OMB. We will be collecting information and public comment, including information about the California standard, to determine the best course of action.

1:33 Comment From Guest: Does OSHA see itself as a strategic partner with ETA and the Job Corps program to maker certain workers receive an awareness of job safety as they transition careers?

1:33 David: Yes. We are strengthening our ties and efforts within all the agencies at the Department of Labor to ensure workers are protected. This is especially true for young workers and in programs regarding green jobs that are environmentally friendly but still contain traditional, serious hazards.

1:35 Comment From Jignesh Kahodariya: Is there any specific regulation going to be introduced for immigrant workers? If so, how will it work?

1:35 David: On April 28, we are issuing a memorandum to all of our field staff that, when they conduct inspections, they are to determine whether training and education required by OSHA standards is provided in the language that workers can understand. In addition, we are working with the Mayors of 10 cities to train building inspectors on the leading four hazards that kill workers so they can refer these hazards to OSHA.

1:36 Comment From Sara Ditta: House lawmakers urged OSHA to add reactive hazards to the process safety rule last year. Why wasn't a reactive hazards rule included in this regulatory agenda? How is OSHA addressing the issue?

1:36 David: Sara, thanks for the question. Reactive hazards are of great concern to OSHA. Unfortunately, there are a large number of other major priorities on the regulatory agenda at the current time and our resource constraints make it impossible to add reactive hazards at this time. Meanwhile, we are planning to address reactive hazards through a compliance directive.

1:37 Comment From Bill Borwegen: As you know the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens standard has been a huge success. CDC has reported that hepatitis B cases among healthcare workers have plunged from 17,000 a year to less than 300, and researchers at the University of Virginia report that needlesticks have been cut by more than half. However recent data from the State of Massachusetts indicates an erosion of compliance with more than a third of the needlesticks being caused by conventional needles and other sharps that lack safety features. What can OSHA do to remind employers of the importance of this life saving regulation and better enforce these requirements?

1:37 David: Bill, Thank you for recognizing the importance and benefit of the bloodborne pathogen standard in protecting workers. OSHA plans to review this important standard and we have the data on the Massachusetts needlesticks which will become an important data element in the 610 reg. flex. look back review to determine the worker protection effectiveness of the current standard. Meanwhile we will continue to aggressively enforce the bloodborne pathogen standard.

1:37 Comment From Natikki Dawkins: What is the projected date for the walking working surfaces and fall protection in general industry ruling? Will the incorpation of fall protection be similiar to that in Subpart M in the 1926 standards?

1:37 David: Thank you for your question. Our walking-working surfaces and fall protection proposal is expected to be published shortly. We look forward to public input on this worker protection proposal.

1:39 Comment From Kristina S.: I understand federal OSHA has been closely monitoring Cal/OSHA's diacetyl rulemaking efforts, and I was wondering what lesson(s) you've taken from California in this realm. Are you also keeping an eye on California's move toward updating its BBP rule?

1:39 Comment From Greg Hellman, BNA: The regulatory agenda says OSHA is set to Initiate Peer Review of Health Effects and Risk Assessment for its diacetyl rulemaking in October. Is OSHA considering expanding that rulemaking to encompass other food flavorings, and if so, which ones?

1:39 Comment From Peter Hernandez: Has OSHA established a specific date by which comments on the combustible dust ANPR must be submitted?

1:39 David: HI Kristina and Greg, we are looking closely at the California efforts, and we are closely following the research at NIOSH and at NIEHS. We are also working closely with our stakeholders, including flavoring manufacturers, to address a difficult problem: the use of diacetyl substitutes that may be as hazardous as the original flavor chemical. We recognize that regulating only diacetyl is the regulatory equivalent of "whack-a-mole". We don’t want to issue a standard concerning one chemical and just push employers to use another that is not regulated but equally or more dangerous.

1:39 David: Peter, thanks for your question. The Combustible Dust ANPR closed Jan. 19, 2010, however we welcome the submission of late comments to the docket. Please send them in as soon as possible.

1:42 Comment From Guest: Where is further info on Plan, Prevent, Protect available? Was that posted somewhere today?

1:42 David: Thank you for the question, Guest. The Plan/Prevent/Protect strategy is described in detail in the narrative on the regulatory agenda page (http://www.dol.gov/regulations/2010RegNarrative.htm). Plan/Prevent/Protect is the Department's new compliance strategy that describes cooperative efforts of our worker protection agencies (not just OSHA, but also the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Wage and Hour Division, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance) to leverage agency resources. The goal of the Plan/Prevent/Protect strategy is to make workplaces safe, healthy, equitable, and secure. The approach of the new strategy is to change the culture of compliance from one in which some employers and other regulated entities wait for Labor enforcement personnel to catch them violating the law to one in which employers and others proactively plan to reduce risk to workers by implementing the plan and protecting workers as a result.

1:42 Comment From Jignesh Kahodariya: What is i2p2 proposal and how is it going to be introduced in Pharmaceutical industries? What are the aspects of this proposal?

1:42 David: OSHA has not made a determination on what industries will be covered by an i2p2 rule. The agency believes that all workplaces could benefit from an effective injury and illness prevention program. However, we will be studying the patterns of injuries in U.S. workplaces to find the most effective ways to ensure that all workers are protected as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The i2p2 standard is expected to draw from companies' experiences with OSHA's successful cooperative safety & health programs, which include worker participation, worksite inspections, and worker training, among other elements.

We are starting the stakeholder meeting process, and we encourage you to participate.

1:43 Comment From Mario: Unfortunately, there is a growing anti-immigrant sentiment in this great Nation, mostly fueled as of late due to the recession, however, there seems to be a growing number of sprouting laws to target immigrants, especially of hispanic origin (see the new Arizona law passed last Friday) under the tagline of "protecting the homeland", which has become the biggest excuse for targeting uneducated illegal aliens of latino descent. Most of these people are good hard-working people looking to feed their families. They are not criminals in the true meaning of the word. OSHA just had a Summit in Houston to discuss how to improve workplace safety & health conditions for hispanic workers. What and how will OSHA do to continue to reach out to this large group of workers and gain their trust when other government agencies (State and/or Federal) are working in opposite direction and targeting them as criminals?

1:43 David: Mario, Thanks for your question. Our Houston Summit was enormously successful with over 1,000 attendees from businesses, labor unions, the faith community, health and safety professionals, government and community immigrant organizations around the country. At the Summit we built partnerships, new collaborations and developed new strategies to protect Latino workers. We are committed as an agency to reach Latino workers with information about the hazards on the job and their rights, and to develop partnerships to enhance their ability to exercise their rights. We are building on the energy and commitment from this very successful Summit.

1:45 Comment From Sara Ditta: In follow-up to your previous answer on PELs -- what are the strategies OSHA is examining to better address workplace chemical exposures?

1:45 David: OSHA is interested in exploring alternatives to setting single substance PELs as its primary strategy. OSHA is generally interested in exploring strategies that reflect a more programmatic approach to chemical hazards management. The i2p2 project is one avenue to explore, but OSHA would also consider other regulatory and non-regulatory approaches.

1:46 Comment From Sara Ditta: Why the move to make combustible dust rulemaking a long-term action in this reg agenda? Is promulgation of the rule still an agency priority? And how will OSHA be concentrating on mitigating dust hazards in the interim?

1:46 David: Yes, Sara, Combustible Dust is still a priority for OSHA. We are aggressively doing the research necessary to support this rule. However, the issues in this rulemaking are very complex and take time to address. In the interim, we are continuing inspections under our National Emphasis Program using existing OSHA standards and our authority under the General Duty clause.

1:49 Comment From Stakeholder: Why does it take so long to initiate a SBREFA on combustible dust?

1:49 David: Stakeholder, Thank you for your question. OSHA is in the process of collecting information to support a proposed standard for combustible dust. Convening a SBREFA panel will be one of the first major steps. The risks of combustible dusts affect small businesses in a large number of industries. For these reasons, rule development for combustible dust can be complex and lengthy. This rulemaking remains a priority for the Agency.

1:51 Comment From Eric Frumin: You have said that you have not made a decision about the scope of the i2p2 proposal, which appears to address employers generally and which will address industries with patterns of injuries. Most of the broad OSHA standards for general industry exclude agriculture, except for the basic rules on injury/illness recordkeeping and chemical Hazard Communication. Is OSHA considering whether or not to include agriculture in the scope of this rulemaking, considering how severe are the risks in agricultural work, and how few other OSHA standards now apply to ag work?

1:51 David: Eric, we are still in the early stages of rulemaking and all options are being considered for the rule, including the scope of the rule.

1:51 Comment From Dave Heidorn, ASSE: I know it's early in the process, but Z10 is mentioned in OSHA's language on the safey and health program rule. Has there also been thought to look to similar international standards?

1:51 David: Thanks, Dave. Good question. Learning from the experiences that businesses and workers have had under existing standards will be extremely important in this process. As we proceed on our safety & health program rule we will be looking at industry’s experience with Z-10 and similar standards in some state plans such as California, as well as other international standards.

1:52 Comment From Guest: I noticed that the electric power transmission and distribution standard will address fall protection in aerial lifts for work on power generation. How will the requirements be different than the current standard?

1:52 David: The type of fall protection to be used by employees working from aerial lifts was an issue raised in the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution standard. OSHA is currently considering this issue and plans to promulgate fall protection requirements, along with the rest of the final rule, in February 2011.

1:52 Comment From Kristina S.: Following up on the diacetyl response: Has OSHA begun considering possible ways to address the hazards posed by diacetyl substitutes? If so, what are some of these?

1:52 David: Hi Kristina, the problems raised by diacetyl substitutes and other flavor chemicals underscore the need for a risk based "find and fix" standard. Under current rulemaking requirements, OSHA would have great difficulty issuing specific standards for each potentially toxic chemical used in the flavor industry. There are many chemicals about which we know very little, but they are similar enough to known toxins that they may constitute a hazard to workers. Implementation of an i2p2 rule would be a significant improvement in enhancing worker protection in this industry.

1:53 Comment From Guest: The Federal Highway Administration recently issued the 2009 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. ANSI/ASSE A10.47 standard for Work Zone Safety for Highway Construction was also recently issued. Does OSHA have any plans to update its construction safety standards to address highway work zone safety?

1:53 David: Guest, Thanks for your question. This regulatory agenda only represents those items on which we are moving aggressively forward on at this time. OSHA does not have the resources to address all of the pressing workplace health and safety hazards. OSHA recognizes there are important safety concerns related to highway work zones. However, due to our resources, we are not currently working on an update to the construction safety standards related to highway work zones.

1:55 Comment From Mario: Will OSHA post a transcript or video of the ComDust Stakeholder Meeting held in Chicago on April 21, 2010?

1:55 David: Mario, OSHA does not transcribe or record stakeholder meetings, but we will be posting notes reflecting what stakeholders said at the meeting on our website. We expect to publish the notes from the Chicago meeting in about six weeks.

1:55 Comment From Guest: What is or can be done to streamline the regulatory process and expedite rulemakings?

1:55 David: We appreciate the need to move faster. We are working with OMB and within DOL for ways to streamline the rulemaking process and maximize our resources to save time and effort. For example, we will examine different ways in which we can shorten or simplify our preambles while still meeting our statutory and legal burdens.

1:56 Comment From Mike: Will OSHA be working with MSHA on topics listed on both agenda's, such as crystalline silica and safety and health management programs?

1:56 David: Mike, Thanks for the question. Yes, OSHA is working very closely with MSHA on crystalline silica and safety and health management programs. In addition, all DOL agencies meet together frequently to coordinate regulatory activity where our stakeholders have common interests.

1:57 Comment From Jignesh Kahodariya: When is this new Stratagy will be in effect and how will it be initiated?

1:57 David: Thank you for your question. The Spring 2010 Regulatory Agenda launches the Department's new Plan/Prevent/Protect strategy, which is a cooperative effort of the worker protection agencies (OSHA, MSHA, Wage and Hour Division, and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) to leverage resources to create a new culture of compliance. It will be initiated through the rulemakings of the worker protection agencies. Details of the strategy are described in the Spring Regulatory Agenda narrative at: http://www.dol.gov/regulations/2010RegNarrative.htm .

1:57 David: I want to thank you for your questions, concerns, and suggestions regarding the standards and guidance which are currently being developed. The agency takes all comments and questions very seriously and we value stakeholder involvement in the regulatory process.

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