With No Permanent Boss, OSHA Slooooows Down

Nine months into the new administration and there is still no one named to head OSHA.  To no one’s surprise the sub-agency is not rushing to put out new regulations.   That is certainly what industry safety professionals suspected, but career managers at OSHA came right out and said it last week.  

A number of OSHA officials spoke at the National Safety Council’s annual meeting and, according to the NSC’s Magazine Safety + Health,  the speakers said they do not intend to push for any major initiatives until the leadership is in place.  Bill Perry, OSHA’s director of the agency’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance said,

“For now, we’re pretty much as an agency just keeping the ship straight, taking care of all of our business as usual. We’re kind of going along in the regulatory agenda, doing the research, and gathering the facts and information that an assistant secretary will ultimately want to know to figure out what they really want to focus on.”

There has not been a huge call for OSHA to push out new regulations and many in industry have welcomed the chance to catch their breath after the aggressive stance that OSHA took under the last administration.

That is not to say that OSHA has disappeared.  A number of ongoing initiatives could see action in the next year.  They include:

Silica – The new regulations went into effect for the construction industry and OSHA is actively defending the rule against court challenges, including arguments before an appeals court this week.

GHS Changes to HazCOM – Remember the changes to OSHA’s Hazard Communications regulations that were prompted by the international Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for classifying chemicals? In 2013, OSHA made sweeping changes to the U.S. hazardous chemical rules to comply with the international agreement known as GHS.  Well, the international rules have been modified and OSHA needs to update the HazCom rules to reflect that.

Crane Certifications – The long-awaited new crane operator certification rules might get finalized before the end of the year.

Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) –  OSHA is working on improvements to the program, which seeks to encourage companies to excel at safety programs.  Industry loves it because is serves as a kind of reward for investing in safety. The last administration said it loved it, but did little to make it more attractive.  The new administration sees it as the kind of industry/government partnership that it wants to encourage.

Whistleblower Protection – OSHA officials are working on an outreach plan and an updated whistleblower manual.  The focus is likely to be on clarification and communication rather than changes in the basic approach.

Temporary Workers – OSHA will continue its efforts to bring some clarity to the safety protections for temporary workers.  Since 2013, OSHA has published seven different bulletins that attempt to explain how the regulations affect temporary workers.  It plans to put out two or three more in the near future.

One thing missing from the discussion was whether OSHA will try to aggressively repeal regulations.   Apparently, that is a decision the career OSHA employees will wisely leave for the new boss.

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