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Tales from DC: November 29-30 ACCSH Meeting

Posted in on Fri, Jan 18, 2013

From Adele Abrams, Esq., ASSE’s Federal Representative –

On November 29th and 30th, I represented ASSE at OSHA headquarters for a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety & Health (ACCSH), chaired by Eric “Pete” Stafford, with OSHA representative Ben Bare and NIOSH representative Matt Gillen. Also in attendance and presenting at the meeting with OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels, OSHA Construction Director Jim Maddux, and NIOSH Construction chief Christine Branche.

The highlights of the two-day meeting are as follows:

Jim Maddux: Maddux updated the committee on progress made on ACCSH recommendations, including model guidelines to assist the federal government assist in contracting (draft checklist provided – comments should be sent within 60 days to the Center for Protection of Workers Rights); new material for construction sanitation guidelines; I2P2 for construction (programs should be
employer-specific and site-wide); posting Prevention through Design fact sheets
on the web (soon to come); completion of a direct final rule on head protection
(referencing the most current ANSI standard); a backing operations webpage
(posted in November); and properly fitted PPE issues (addressing through SIPS-IV). No action has been taken yet on the ACCSH mast-climbing recommendations. Maddux also discussed fatality data and the SIPS-IV update of consensus standards and elimination/revision of duplicative, unnecessary or inconsistent standards.

He discussed technical corrections to the crane/derrick standard for underground construction and the digger derrick exemption (to resolve the Edison Electric litigation). Work is being done on the final rule for confined space in construction. Backing operations is at the pre-rule stage, along with reinforcing and post tension steel construction. There are directives under development for cranes/derricks, PPE payment requirements, construction chapter for the Field Operations Manual, and revision of current excavation/trenching directives. They are also working on one for communication tower construction and hoisting of personnel. He also reviewed the most cited paragraphs of the crane standard and said they are researching answers to post FAQs on the rule. There are issues concerning crane certification – two of the crane certifying bodies do not put capacity ratings on cards and this may disenfranchise up to 80,000 crane operators certified by NCCCO during the past few years whose cards will still be valid in 2014 when the type/capacity testing takes effect. NOTE: This issue came up repeatedly at the meeting, including during the public comment periods. Maddux also said the crane
standard applies to forklifts if they are used in lieu of a crane for hoisting.

Maddux also updated the group on the Fall Prevention campaign targeting mostly residential construction and said it was very successful and will be relaunched in the Spring. They are now developing new products on fall protection related to ladders and scaffolds and there are 6 fact sheets and 13 videos based on fatalities, what occurred and what could have been done to avoid the accident. He also discussed the nail gun guidance document (joint OSHA/NIOSH work) and said a Spanish-language version came out in November. It has been picked up by Amazon and can be put on Kindles for $1.99.

There was also a report on the role of the Directorate of Construction (DOC) in Superstorm Sandy efforts, mostly through the personnel from the OSHA Region 2 office. Issues of significance include worker exposure to mold, and he noted that OSHA cannot accept donated PPE but local organizations can and will distribute.

Henry Payne: Mr. Payne, director of the OSHA Training Institute, discussed the issue of providing 10 and 30 hour OSHA training on line. This is becoming popular because it eliminates travel costs and gives more time to complete the sequence but there are concern about fraud and how to verify that the person receiving the card is actually the person doing tests etc on the computer. They are looking at voice verification and some other methods. They also want to reduce the number of online providers of this training to help control it better (there are 11 currently). The Dept of Justice has weighed in and won’t allow resale of online programs but will allow links from websites as long as it is not deceptive about who is the training provider. There will be more information in a Federal Register notice to come.
Payne added that OSHA issued 700,000 cards last year (80 percent in construction) and is now charging a $5 fee for cards. OSHA cannot audit all trainers so is working with outreach trainers to improve the integrity of the program. There are 45,000 authorized trainers but only 15,000 are active (some
of the others are in-house and so don’t submit requests for cards). There has
been a downturn in 10 hour training card requests and an uptick in 30 hour
training. Subsequent to this presentation, the ACCSH Training Work Group passed
a resolution to eliminate the mandated 2-hour “Intro to OSHA” segment and
provide greater flexibility for trainers in terms of content about the agency.

Christine Branche and Matt Gillen: They presented on NIOSH construction activities and noted that while there is concern about the NIOSH budget, no information is available yet. Elizabeth Garza has joined NIOSH’s construction office as its third staffer and she is a public health analyst. They discussed the fall prevention campaign with OSHA, noting that 300,000 persons have been “touched” by outreach efforts. They also highlighted a quote from Ron Sokol “of ASSE” and said that the residential fall prevention campaign won an award from the Public Relations Society of America.

They also discussed the NORA mid-decade review and the 15 goals for construction research. Of these, six are “ready for impact” (falls, silica, disparities, struck by hazards, culture and Prevention through Design), seven are at the developmental stage (electrocution, welding fumes, safety and health management, surveillance, noise, MSDs and training), and two are at the exploratory phase (industry organization, and engaging the media).  Gillen also discussed the nail gun project
and said that the National Construction Center has developed a related hazard
alert. He also discussed the intramural projects, which include: injury
assessment for emerging mast scaffold technology; ladder safety applications
for smartphones; engineering control partnerships for drills; noise control
(web-based outreach to construction and mining); FACE project improvements; HHE program improvements; and green construction (dialogue with the Green Building Council) with a focus on “life cycle safety” for design, construction,
operations and maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction/demolition. NIOSH
hopes to build employee safety and health into LEED Certification Programs
Version 4.

David Michaels: Dr. Michaels reviewed some statistics on fatalities, injuries and occupational illnesses, noting that there are some 3 million non-fatal injuries/illnesses per year costing society over $170 billion. OSHA has a broad mandate: from nail guns to nail salons and they have to communicate the message in many different languages. He discussed the different “needs” that companies have for OSHA, based on whether they are “Great” (VPP as an example) or offer little commitment to safety. He said, for some employers, the best “incentive” is a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.

He reviewed the most-cited standards for construction in FY2012 and issues related to Sandy (OSHA doing mostly compliance assistance but some inspections, and addressing concerns about worker exposure to mold), as well as the fall prevention campaign (3,145 site visits and 1,083 training sessions). He added that OSHA is doing a lot of compliance assistance “through the website, the 800 # calls for help, and measuring enforcement effectiveness.” He also discussed the May 2012 Science magazine article on OSHA enforcement effectiveness, and said two more studies were released in November 2012 – in Washington State and in Pennsylvania that found the same injury reductions due to OSHA enforcement. “This ends the discussion about whether OSHA inspections are effective,” he said.

Michaels also discussed the incentive program issue saying they don’t work and are counterproductive when they give a small prize for not reporting injuries. There is no evidence, he said, that incentive programs cause employees to work more safely and the whole concept presumes that safety is in the control of the employee and does not require employers to eliminate hazards. OSHA enforces the right to report an injury as protected activity, as well as the right to file OSHA complaints.

During questions, he said that OSHA plans to put information on its website comparing PELs, TLVs and notating where they have been adopted. OSHA is working with ACGIH on how to use their materials and hope to get the information public soon. But this still does not address the issue of outdated or missing PELs and they are not sure what to do. He also was asked about I2P2 rulemaking status and had nothing new to report, other than they “hope to start the SBREFA process soon.”

Meagan Smith and Paul Bolon: Ms. Smith from OSHA discussed backing operations and said that OSHA’s Request for Information resulted in 32 comments from a variety of interests with some supporting rulemaking and others opposing it. They are studying backing incidents – how many involved equipment with/without alarms — and other low-tech preferences, as well as camera and more sophisticated proximity detectors. BLS said there are about 80 fatalities per year related to backing incidents. Mr. Bolon from OSHA added that there will be stakeholder meeting on January 8, 2013, in DC and another in Dallas on February 5th. If the agency does a standard, it would encompass both general industry and construction, and would require a SBREFA panel. Mr. Gillen noted that January 8th is also the same day as the ANSI A10 meeting in DC and this could be conflict in participation, so urged OSHA to schedule it a day before/after to encourage participants.  Virginia OSHA already has a backing standard and they will seek input from VA stakeholders.

Cecil Tipton: Mr. Tipton provided an briefing on OSHA’s Information System Update. IMIS is being replaced by the OIS and rollout is starting in a few OSHA area offices per week. All federal OSHA offices are on it and next they will work on the state OSHA agency data. He explained in detail what will be available internally to OSHA personnel and what will be viewed by the public. They plan to add a tab with health sampling data. The OIS will provide better “real time” reports and allow the agency to better capture data for issuing repeat violations. It also allows them to compare average numbers of citations in different offices and initial penalties for violations.  This may also help measure effectiveness of National Emphasis Programs.

Paul Bolon & Dave Nickerson: These men provided an update on the Standards Improvement Project, Phase 4 (SIPS-IV) and an RFI will be published in the next few weeks and there will be a 60 day comment period. They are seeking comment on “candidate standards” for the project and it will take 6 months to write a direct final rule once the RFI comments close.  Comments should be submitted in writing to the OSHA docket through www.regulations.gov.

There was also an RFI published earlier this year concerning Reinforced Concrete and Post-Tensioning and OSHA got “13 unique comments” (they also received 80 identical comments that were promoted by NAHB but are considering those as a single comment). The issues are using a third-party evaluator, training, inspections, and rebar caps.  There was discussion of ANSI A10.9 being under revision and OSHA will want to review it because it may be similar to stakeholder recommendations. The 2007-2010 data indicate 25 accident reports with at least 1 fatality having rebar involved, but causation needs review because if someone falls 50 feet and lands on rebar, is that a rebar incident or a fall protection issue.  There are no stakeholder meetings planned yet, pending action by ANSI.

In addition to the formal presentations, there were reports from each of the work groups (some minutes of those were provided). The work groups include: Training and Outreach; I2P2; Backing Operations; Health Hazards/Emerging Issues/Prevention Through Design (which did discuss nanoscale particles and degradation of coating as possible construction health hazards); and Diversity (still
addressing sanitary facilities, and also whether sex harassment may be related
to workplace violence). The National Association of Women in Construction is
working with OSHA on a draft webpage and they also noted there is no national
Latino summit planned for 2013 but will be activity at the regional level.

No date has been set for the next meeting.

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