Anticipating Labor Dept’s regulatory agenda for new worker safety rules

It shouldn’t be long now before Labor Secretary Hilda Solis releases her semi-annual regulatory plan for new worker health and safety rules. This document is required by the Regulatory Flexibility Act and Executive Order 12866, and is supposed to be published every April and October. The Labor Secretary’s most recent regulatory agenda wasn’t issued until December 2010, the 20th to be exact. We”ll have to wait and see how tardy this one will be.

In that December 2010 document, OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) listed about a dozen regulatory initiatives in the pre-rule, proposed rule and final rule stages of development. OSHA’s priorities included:

*issuing a final rule on general working conditions for shipyards, which the agency expected to publish in January 2011; OSHA did so in May 2011.

*convening a small business review panel in April 2011 for a draft proposed rule on combustible dust; OSHA announced a delay in that plan last month.

*issuing a proposed rule in April 2011 to protect workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica. OSHA submitted the proposed rule to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on February 14 for their review, where it remains. OIRA officials have been responding to private meeting requests from regulatory parties to discuss this OSHA document. When DOL publishes its new regulatory agenda, OSHA will provide a revised date (i.e., April 2011 has come and gone) for publishing its proposed rule on respirable crystalline silica.

*issuing a final rule by May 2011 to enhance provisions in OSHA’s existing safety standard for workers involved in Electric Power Transmission and Distribution, including new requirements for personal protective equipment. OSHA started this rulemaking in 2003 during the GW Bush Administration. Because OSHA has not yet submitted this final rule to OIRA for review, the agency’s forthcoming agenda will likely have a revised date for publishing the final rule.

*issuing a proposed rule in March 2011 to modernize its injury recording and reporting system, such as converting Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes to North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and revising requirements for reporting of work-related fatal incidents. Because OSHA has not yet submitted this proposal to OIRA for review, the agency’s forthcoming agenda will likely have a revised date for publishing it.

*publishing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking by March 2011 on Reinforced and Post-tensioned steel construction to address hazards associated with structural collapse, including impalements on protruding steel dowels. We’ll have to wait and see in the forthcoming agenda whether OSHA still plans to publish a notice to solicit public input on this issue.

In the December 2010 regulatory agenda, MSHA’s priorities included:

*issuing a final rule by June 2011 to revise requirements for rock dusting in underground coal mines, which helps to prevent combustible dust explosions. MSHA issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to address this hazard in September 2010, and submitted its final rule to OIRA on May 3. I predict the final rule will be issued soon.

*issuing a proposed rule by January 2011 to revise its “pattern of violation” procedures and the agency did so in February 2011. The forthcoming regulatory agenda may predict when MSHA expects to issue the final rule.

*issuing an emergency temporary standard (ETS) by March 2011 on proximity detection devices. Because MSHA has not yet submitted this final rule to OIRA for review, the agency’s forthcoming agenda will likely have a revised date for publishing this ETS. One criterion for issuing an ETS is demonstrating that exposed workers face a “grave danger.” That might be difficult to argue now that the Labor Department has allowed its target dates to slip. If the hazard is so grave to workers [and I think hazards related to getting crushed by moving equipment is a grave danger for miners working in dark, closed quarters,] MSHA needed a greater sense of urgency in order to justify it as an ETS.

*issuing a proposed rule by March 2011 to improve procedures for assessing monetary penalities. Because March has come and gone, the forthcoming regulatory agenda will likely have a revised date for publishing this proposal.

Stay tuned to The Pump Handle for a report on the Labor Secretary’s spring 2011 regulatory agenda, whenever it is issued. Our recap will be something like the post written previously on DOL’s regulatory plans, such as:

* Frances Perkins is rolling in her grave, December 2006
* Progress (Not!) on workplace standards, May 2007
* OSHA’s reg agena: where have all the hazards gone?, Dec 2007
* Solis’ regulatory plan for OSHA and MSHA, May 2009
* Good news, bad news in Solis’ regulatory agenda, December 2009
*Perplexed by OSHA’s latest regulatory agenda, May 2010
*Puzzled by MSHA’s latest regulatory agenda, May 2010
*Labor Dept reveals plan for worker health and safety regulations, December 2010