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August 13, 2004 8:29 AM CDT

The Department of Labor's Semi-annual Agenda - Important Issues for Our Industry

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On June 28th, the Department of Labor published its semi-annual regulatory agenda in the Federal Register. There were several notices of actions OSHA will be taking on several issues that merit your attention. They are as follows:

Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica
OSHA is considering several options for a proposed standard including: a comprehensive standard for general industry, construction and maritime; focusing on more specific issues such as modernizing the construction and maritime permissable exposure limits (PELs) or standardizing sampling; and analytical methods to ensure that employers and employees are receiving reliable data on employee exposures. OSHA expects to complete the review of the risk assessment by February 2005. This is very important because the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) is continuing its efforts to come up with a more reasonable approach to resolve the silica exposure issue.

Hearing Conservation Program for Construction Workers
Last August, OSHA published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to gather information on the extent of noise-induced hearing loss among workers in different trades in the industry, current practices to reduce hearing loss, and additional approaches and protections that could be used to prevent such loss in the future. Since then, a stakeholder meeting was held in Chicago in March and, at the time of this writing, another will be held in Washington, July 21-22, 2004. I will be attending this meeting with an MCAA member who has had some testing done and will make a presentation about it at the meeting. I'll keep you posted on further developments with this standard.

Cranes and Derricks
OSHA is still in negotiated rulemaking for a new standard for various types of hoisting equipment used at construction sites, primarily cranes and derricks. There have been several meetings on this proposal, and the working group has made a lot of progress. At the time of this writing, the next meeting of the Cranes and Derricks Action Committee is July 6-9 in Washington. The major sticking point seems to be over operator certification. OSHA would prefer that contractors and equipment suppliers obtain operator certification from outside sources. The trade associations representing various construction contractors around the country have argued that their safety personnel should be allowed to get certification and then train their own employees. Obviously these are dangerous pieces of equipment to operate and those who do should be knowledgeable. The requirement for outside certification will, however, result in increased costs for the contractor, whether they lease or own, and more time off work for the employees to get trained and tested. It will be interesting to see which approach finally prevails.

Excavations
The number of fatalities from trenching and excavations has nearly doubled in the last year. As such, OSHA has begun a review of the existing standard. They expect to complete this review by March 2005. They are currently accepting public comments on the existing standard. If this issue is of interest to you, I'd recommend you submit your concerns to OSHA in writing.

Hexavalent Chromium
OSHA is under court order to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by October and must have it finalized by January 2006. I have not heard much out of OSHA lately on this proposal, but all indications are that they are still leaning toward the exclusion for wet Portland cement.

Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA standards generally require that protective equipment (including PPE) be provided and used when necessary to protect employees from hazards that can cause injury, illness or physical harm. OSHA is reopening the record to get input on issues related to PPE considered to be a "tool of the trade." Comments were due by the end of July.

For complete details of the regulatory agenda, you may click here.

If you have any questions about any of these issues, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me directly at mjmarshall@masoncontractors.org or (703) 671-4468.


About the Author

Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.

 

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