OSHA/Employment Law Alert - OSHA Standards Improvement Project - Phase II Final Rule

Date: Jan 19, 2005

On January 5, 2005, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") published a Final Rule for Phase II of the Agency's Standards Improvement Project. The Standards Improvement Project was initiated by OSHA to revise provisions of safety and health standards that the Agency feels are outdated, duplicative or inconsistent with other standards, or can be clarified or simplified by being written in plain language.

Summary of Standards Improvement Project and Final Rule

In a Proposed Rule issued on October 31, 2002, OSHA proposed several changes to health standards intended to simplify and clarify regulatory requirements without reducing the health protections provided by the standards. The proposed changes were adopted in a Final Rule under the Standards Improvement Project. Importantly, several health standards were amended to be more consistent with the regulatory requirements in more recently promulgated rules and current medical and health and safety practices. The changes include revisions to provisions on frequencies of exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and compliance plan updates.

The standards affected include: first aid kits for general industry in the medical services and first aid standard (29 C.F.R. § 1910.151) and telecommunications standard (29 C.F.R. § 1910.268); laboratory licensing in the vinyl chloride standard; periodic exposure monitoring requirements in several health standards; and semiannual medical examinations requirements in the vinyl chloride, inorganic arsenic, and coke oven emissions standards. Other areas of changes include requirements to notify OSHA of certain events (e.g., substance specific release or emergency), and changes to employee notification requirements in certain general industry health standards. OSHA believes that the revisions to the standards will facilitate employer compliance while improving employee protection.

One of the major changes contained in the Final Rule eliminates employer reporting requirements in several health standards. For example, the Final Rule eliminates the requirements to notify OSHA of substance specific releases or emergencies in the standards for 13 carcinogens (29 C.F.R. § 1910.1003), vinyl-chloride (29 C.F.R. § 1910.1017), inorganic arsenic (29 C.F.R. § 1910.1018), and acrylonitrile (29 C.F.R. § 1910.1045). The revisions also revise the semi-annual updating of compliance plan requirements for vinyl-chloride, inorganic arsenic and lead (29 C.F.R. § 1910.1025) for General Industry, and revise employee notification requirements (e.g., exposure monitoring results) for several of the chemical-specific General Industry health standards.

What Employers Should Do

In all, the recent Final Rule amends 17 different General Industry standards, including many of the chemical-specific standards for toxic and hazardous substances, 1910 C.F.R. § 1910.1001 - 1096. In most cases, the changes should alleviate the paperwork and cost burdens associated with many of these standards. Employers using covered toxic and hazardous substances in their facilities will need to update their safety and health practices to incorporate these recent changes, and modify their written compliance plans accordingly. For more information on the Final Rule and revised health standards, please contact David Sarvadi at sarvadi@khlaw.com, Peter de la Cruz at delacruz@khlaw.com, or Jeremy Brewer at brewer@khlaw.com.