White House Review Touches Cranes, Diacetyl, Confined Space Rules

Putting the long-awaited OSHA negotiated rule for safe operation of cranes and derricks into effect apparently will take longer than expected. Ditto for the agency's pending confined spaces in construction rule and the proposed regulation that would require workers to be protected from diacetyl exposures. A memo issued Tuesday by Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, told heads of executive agencies and departments that regulations not yet published should be held for review by the president's appointees, and they should consider a 60-day extension of the effective date for published regulations not yet in effect.

OSHA today published its advance notice of proposed rulemaking for the diacetyl regulation (www.regulations.gov, Docket No. OSHA-2008-0046), asking for comments from stakeholders by April 21 on a wide range of issues, including whether or not OSHA should set a permissible exposure limit in the rule, whether any employee has ever been removed from a job because of adverse health effects attributed to diacetyl, and what protective measures are already being used to control exposures. 

Comments are being accepted by OSHA until tomorrow on the cranes and derricks rule, while the confined spaces in construction rule was proposed in November 2007 but has not yet been published as a final rule, with contractors still opposing it. The memo does not affect MSHA's rule issued Dec. 31, 2008, that allows underground coal mines to continue using belt air while gradually replacing their conveyor belts with fire-resistant belts because that rule took effect immediately. (The memo says pending safety, health, or environmental rules judged to be "urgent" by OMB's top official can go forward without delay.)

Two recent safety regulations that are affected by the memo are the Federal Railroad Administration’s Jan. 5, 2009, rule (set to take effect March 2) that would raise the maximum penalty for imminent hazard violations to $100,000 and the Department of Transportation's Jan. 12, 2009, regulation mandating changes in hazmat rail tank cars to make them more resistant to collision damage and rupture.

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