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‘Absolutely Huge’ Regs on Tap for 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

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ORLANDO—From the Danger signs it posts to the labs it employs, the U.S. commercial construction industry should gird now for a slew of new major regulatory actions coming this year, an industry expert urges.

2014 will see a dam break of pent-up regulatory action, predicts Alison B. Kaelin, ASQ-CQA, a civil and environmental engineer and longtime regulatory expert.

"This is going to be a big regulatory year," Kaelin said Wednesday (Feb. 12) in her annual Regulatory Update: Current and Emerging Trends in Occupational and Environmental Health at SSPC 2014.

Alison Kaelin
Technology Publishing Co.

"What I see is new regs coming out with a big impact on our industry," said consultant Alison B. Kaelin, ASQ-CQA.

"What I see is new regs coming out with a big impact on our industry."

New and updated federal rules and proposals—many of them delayed for years—will soon be landing in containment structures, confined spaces, walking surfaces, excavations, contracts, job sites, labs, labels, contracts, equipment, suppliers and even porta-potties near you.

On deck is action on silica, illness and injury reporting, beryllium, confined spaces, women in construction, coal combustion residuals and possibly lead, said Kaelin, an industry consultant who heads ABKaelin LLC.

Smart companies across the industry need to prepare now, she advised.

With a caveat that the fine print could change significantly a half-dozen times during the years-long rules-making process, Kaelin offered this snapshot of the months ahead.

Silica

"Silica is going to have some of the most far-reaching impact on all of us," Kaelin said of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Proposed Rule on Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica.

The proposed rule was published in Sept. 12, and the comment period closed Tuesday (Feb. 11) after two extensions. Public hearings are set for March, and Kaelin expects them to be contentious.

"We've known for 43 years that silica is bad for us," she said. "But because of its prolific use in a number of industries, they've stayed away from regulating it."

Silica
New Jersey Department of Health / OSHA

"We've known for 43 years that silica is bad for us," said Kaelin. A proposed rule faces a volatile road to finalization this year.

No more. Silica exposures now occur in more than 30 industries, affecting more than 2.2 million U.S. workers—most of them in construction. The material is also present in various types of abrasives, paints, concrete, Portland cement, silicates and soil.

A growing body of research linking silica exposure to lung cancer means that OSHA may even regulate the material as a carcinogen, "and that changes the way we treat it," said Kaelin.

While the silica proposal roughly mirrors those for lead and chromium, it also details some key differences, including:

  • A prohibition on using employee rotation as a control;
  • A requirement that employees be able to demonstrate their knowledge of the standard;
  • Site-specific controls;
  • A requirement that labs analyzing silica samples be ISO 17025 certified; and
  • More extensive exposure monitoring.

The impact on the commercial sector will be "absolutely huge," said Kaelin.

Lead
National Park Service

Cal/OSHA is looking closely at a public-health recommendation to slash lead limits.

The silica proposal will also carry major changes for ventilation and containment during abrasive-blast cleaning—standards that "we don't often meet" now, she added.

Illness and Injury Reporting

Coming even sooner: OSHA's rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, announced Nov. 7. The rule would move current paper reporting requirements online and eventually make that data public and accessible under the Freedom of Information Act.

“This is a no-brainer rule,” Kaelin said. ”All they’re saying is, ‘Hey guys let’s go electronic.'

"This is on a fast track. I don't think there's any doubt that this is going to come out, and pass, in April."

The rule would require establishments with 20 or more employees in industries with high injury and illness rates (which typically includes all construction-related trades) to electronically submit a summary of injury and illness information annually. Those employers were previously exempt.

Confined Space in Construction

Confined Spaces in Construction was first proposed in 2007, with final action promised every year since then. In the fall, OSHA said it would issue a final rule in February 2014.

If that happens, the seven-year lag may yield "massive changes" in the final rule, said Kaelin.

The construction proposal establishes four types of confined space, with requirements for each.

Confined Space
OSHA

The construction industry may finally get its own confined-space rule this year.

Key provisions include:

  • Establishing the controlling contractor as the party responsible for confined-space safety, regardless of whether that contractor has employees in the space. ("Every year, we've played ping pong with who owns the confined space," said Kaelin. "Now, we know.");
  • A step-by-step approach to assessing hazards, classifying the space, and planning for safe entry;
  • New requirements for prompt rescue, which is likely to shift responsibility toward training and equipping for on-site rescue, rather than relying on 911 emergency responders.

Containment is not likely to be treated as a confined space which, by definition, is a space not intended for occupancy.

Beryllium

A proposed rule is expected in April, said Kaelin. The toxic metal has been linked to beryllium disease and lung cancer, and concerns have arisen in the aircraft maintenance industry.

The current Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for beryllium is 2.0 µg/m3 as an eight-hour TWA. OSHA is considering a new PEL of 0.1 µg/m3.

Coal Combustion Residuals

Nearly four years after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency introduced its Proposed Rule for Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals [CCRs] from Electric Utilities, the agency is under a court-ordered Dec. 19 deadline to complete the regulation.

The original proposal was aimed at fly-ash hazards, but the effect will be felt throughout the blasting and coatings industries. EPA is re-evaluating what constitutes "beneficial use" of coal slags, coal ash and other CCRs.

Silica in concrete
Wikimedia Commons / KTrimble

EPA has affirmed Coal Combustion Residuals' beneficial use in concrete and wallboard. More action looms this year.

That will include a determination on whether those products should, for the first time, be considered hazardous.

Last week, EPA determined that use of CCRs in concrete and wallboard is beneficial. "That's good news for the concrete industry," said Kaelin.

Lead

While no federal lead proposal currently looms, "lead is not dead," said Kaelin. California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) is reviewing a state public-health recommendation to establish a PEL of 0.5 to 2.1 µg/m3 as an eight-hour TWA. The current OSHA limit is 50 µg/m3.

"Do not rely on the OSHA numbers" on lead, said Kaelin. "They're garbage. The action level to pay attention to is 15 [µg/m3]. Lead accumulates in the bone, which we didn't know before. We're working with archaic numbers."

Watch for an update to the Cal/OSHA lead standard, Kaelin said.

Hazard Communication Standard

OSHA's update of its Hazard Communication Standard to align with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals took effect in 2012, with full implementation due June 1, 2016.

HazCom
OSHA

Labels and signs are changing. The center column shows current language; the right column, new language.

That means changing workplace signs, safety data sheets, labels and other documentation. Training must be completed by Dec. 1, 2014.

"Read Safety Data Sheets," said Kaelin. "Every one, every time they come in." She added: "Start changing your signage now."

Women, Dust and More

A two-year OSHA national alliance with the National Association of Women in Construction, signed in August 2013, is already being felt in new attention on improving PPE fit for women and improving sanitary facilities on the job site.

OSHA is considering separate facilities for male and female workers, Kaelin said.

Also on the horizon: possible updates to combustible dust regulations, removing a Process Safety Management exemption for above-ground atmospheric storage tanks, and more.

"Look for accelerated rulemaking and enforcement through 2016," Kaelin said.

   

Tagged categories: ABKaelin LLC; Confined space; Construction; Enforcement; EPA; Hazard Communication Standard (HCS); Health and safety; Lead; OSHA; Regulations; Silica

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