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OSHA proposes wide range of changes across many industries

At the beginning of October, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration proposed a handful of rule changes as part of President Obama’s Executive Order 13563, titled Improving Regulations and Regulatory Reviews.

According to Bloomberg BNA, OSHA proposed Standards Improvement Project-Phase IV as a way to revise existing rules and regulations deemed as inexpensive and noncontroversial. These changes would be the fourth time OSHA has issued similar updates since the 1990s.

OSHA stated its purpose is to remove and/or revise provisions that are duplicated, outdated, inconsistent or unnecessary. In total, OSHA put forth 18 revisions.

If finalized, changes would affect the following:

  • Maritime
  • General industry
  • Recordkeeping
  • Construction standards

As J.J. Keller & Associates pointed out, most proposals would affect the construction industry. Employers and employees can submit comments to OSHA until Dec. 5.


The current rule for lockout/tagout is classified as out of date by The National Law Review. It does not recognize the effectiveness of automated controls, which help reduce the potential of unexpected energization.

Automated controls are relied upon heavily because they offer functionality and reliability checks not otherwise available. Additionally, risk for human error is also reduced when automated controls are used.

OSHA’s proposed rule would subsequently remove “unexpected” from “unexpected energization.” Confusion can ensue, as employees may misinterpret the scope’s standard. As a result, some harmful operations are not properly overseen and workers may find themselves injured due to startup or the release of stored energy.

According to The NLR, this change was announced because OSHA believes existing warning systems are not as effective as lockout/tagout. By adopting this new standard, inspectors won’t have to worry about performing case-by-case assessments of diverse warning systems.

Recordkeeping for hearing loss

Recordkeeping for hearing loss mandates that if a worker’s hearing test results reveal he or she has experienced a work-related Standard Threshold Shift in one or both ears, then the result must be recorded in the OSHA 300 Log.

OSHA is therefore proposing requirements that are more in line with the existing compliance directive, Recordkeeping Policies and Procedures Manual CPL 02-00-135.

Other notable changes

One of many changes oversees when employees call 911, especially if they are in a location not easily found by 911 systems. Per the revision, these remote work areas would need to be outfitted with latitude and longitude coordinates or some other type of specific location information.

Currently, employers are only required to provide a communications system employees can use to contact ambulance transportation services. However, the change would also mandate employees be able to reach emergency responders.

In the marine industry, shipyard representatives asked OSHA to stop classifying feral cats as vermin. Current guidelines state that workers need to be protected from all vermin, including these animals. However, representatives felt these stray cats often avoid human interaction and any resulting injuries from that contact are typically minor anyway. Existing standards also arguably promote unnecessary and sometimes harsh extermination.

OSHA’s proposed rule would classify vermin as rodents, birds, insects or other animals that may harm workers.

Workers and employers in all affected industries are encouraged to submit comments before the Dec. 2 deadline.

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