OSHA Sets Long Timetables for Tree Care, Infectious Disease Standards

The semiannual regulatory flexibility agenda includes rules that are likely to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Two from OSHA are prerule stage -- Communication Tower Safety and a Tree Care Standard -- and two are long-term actions -- Infectious Diseases and Process Safety Management.

The U.S. Department of Labor on June 11 published a semiannual regulatory flexibility agenda, including in it only the rules on its semiannual regulatory agenda that are likely to have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. It is a very concise flexibility agenda that lists one Employee Benefits Security Administration action currently in the final rule stage and four OSHA actions.

Two of OSHA's quartet are prerule stage -- Communication Tower Safety and a Tree Care Standard. The other two are listed as long-term actions -- Infectious Diseases and Process Safety Management.

The document explains that, while the number of employees engaged in the communication tower industry remains small, the fatality rate is very high. "Communication tower construction and maintenance activities are not adequately covered by current OSHA fall protection and personnel hoisting standards, and OSHA plans to use information it will collect from a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel to identify effective work practices and advances in engineering technology that would best address industry safety and health concerns," it says. "While this panel will be focused on communication towers, OSHA plans to consider inclusion of structures that have telecommunications equipment on or attached to them (e.g., buildings, rooftops, water towers, billboards, etc.)."

It notes there is no OSHA standard for tree care operations, saying the agency currently applies a patchwork of standards to address the serious hazards in this industry. The tree care industry previously petitioned the agency for rulemaking, and OSHA issued an ANPRM in September 2008. The document says OSHA will initiate a SBREFA panel in April 2019.

On infectious diseases, the document says OSHA "is examining regulatory alternatives for control measures to protect employees from infectious disease exposures to pathogens that can cause significant disease. Workplaces where such control measures might be necessary include: Health care, emergency response, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, drug treatment programs, and other occupational settings where employees can be at increased risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. A standard could also apply to laboratories, which handle materials that may be a source of pathogens, and to pathologists, coroners' offices, medical examiners, and mortuaries." The date for an NPRM is listed as "to be determined."

The section on process safety and prevention of major chemical accidents merely says OSHA issued a Request for Information in 2013 as directed by Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, and completed a SBREFA report in August 2016. The next action on this rulemaking is listed as "undetermined."

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