Major Revision of Shipyard Work Rules Proposed

OSHA today proposed the first major rewrite of its subpart F shipyard standards in 35 years, asking for comments by March 19 on updates of its lockout/tagout provisions for this sector. Housekeeping, lighting, utilities, work in confined or isolated spaces, lifeboats, sanitation, medical services, vehicle maintenance, accident prevention signs and tags, and first aid also are affected.

OSHA adopted the current subpart F standards in 1972 from existing federal regulations in Section 41 of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and national consensus standards. Then and now, working in shipyards is among the most dangerous occupations in the United States, thanks to exposures to a wide range of hazards and tasks ranging from steel fabrication and welding to paint stripping, electrical work, operating heavy equipment, and cutting -- work that is done outdoors, sometimes on scaffolds or below decks in confined spaces. OSHA said today it believes the proposed rule will significantly reduce the risks.

The agency said its Integrated Management Information System (IMIS) database of fatal and serious injuries requiring hospitalization, as well as the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, reveal there were 231 fatal shipyard incidents in 1987-2002, an average of 15 deaths annually. BLS data show the occupational injury and illness rate for shipyard employment declined from 34.2 per 100 full-time employees in 1992 to 16.6 in 2002 and lost workday IIRs fell from 16.9 in 1993 to 9.3 in 2002, but these were more than triple the average private-sector rate of 5.3 for injuries and illnesses combined and 2.8 for lost-time cases.

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