Sole Long-Term Action in OSHA's Plans: Hearing in Construction

The spring 2008 semiannual regulatory agendas for the U.S. Department of Labor are available online now for the safety community's perusal, and the news is mixed. As promised by chief Edwin Foulke Jr., OSHA's portion is conservative. It lists several actions expected to take place later this fall, including an October 2008 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the Hazard Communication Standard, the bedrock rule requiring chemical hazard information to be communicated clearly to workers. OSHA plans to conform it to the UN-backed Globally Harmonized System of classification but said in this agenda that it has not completed its analysis of costs and benefits the change would cause.

OSHA's agenda lists only one long-term action with an undetermined date for the next action: a hearing conservation standard for construction. This is disappointing because the agency and hearing conservation professionals agree hearing loss is a significant problem in the industry, and OSHA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in August 2002 to gather information on the extent of hearing loss among workers in different trades and then held stakeholder meetings in 2004. Now, the agency says, "Work continues on collecting and analyzing information to determine technological and economic feasibility of possible approaches."

The agenda also says OSHA will reopen the record for its Electric Power Transmission and Distribution rule to gather more information about minimum approach distances.

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