2017: What’s New in Workplace Safety and Health

2017 is already shaping to be the year of change. The U.S. Department of Labor issued several updates to existing standards that just went into effect as well as recommended practices for workplace safety and health. Here’s what new this year:  

New OSHA Recordkeeping Rule Went Into Effect on January 1

OSHA’s new improved tracking recordkeeping rule, which went into effect on January 1, 2017, requires certain employers to electronically record and report occupational injury and illness data on their onsite OSHA Injury and Illness forms. In addition, the rule prohibits employers from discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness or retaliating against employees for reporting such incidents. OSHA’s compliance schedule requires employers to submit information by July 1 in 2017 and 2018. Recordkeeping submission deadline will be March 2 from 2019 and every year thereafter. Learn more >

Final Rule To Lower Beryllium Levels

OSHA issued final rule on January 6, 2017 to lower workplace exposure to beryllium, a strong yet lightweight metal, strategically critical for General Industry, Construction and Shipyards. Recent evidence shows that low-level exposures to beryllium can cause serious lung disease. The rule will reduce the eight-hour permissible exposure limit from 2.0 to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. It’s expected to protect approximately 62,000 beryllium-exposed workers from serious risks. Learn more >  

Rule Requires Engineering Controls to Protect Workers From Silica Dust

OSHA issued a final rule to limit 2.3 million workers from breathing silica dust and protect them from serious health issues like lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease caused by such exposure. The new rule will “reduce permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.” Employers are required to use engineering controls, provide respirators when engineering controls cannot limit exposure sufficiently, maintain and implement a written exposure control plan, continually offer medical exams to highly exposed workers, as well as train workers on silica risks and how to protect themselves. Once in full effect, it’s expected to save approximately 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis, while providing net benefits of $7.7 billion each year, according to OSHA. Learn more >   

Update to General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards Goes Into Effect on January 18  

OSHA issued final rule to protect workers in General Industry from fall hazards. First, the rule eliminates existing mandate to use guardrails as primary fall protection method, to include additional fall protection systems that are more effective such as Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS) or non-conventional fall protection in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs. Second, portable and fixed ladders over 24 feet are now required to integrate with travel safety systems. Third, by May 18, 2017, employers must train affected workers on fall hazards and new equipment required by the final rule. It is expected to prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries annually. Learn more >   

Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction

Have you checked out OSHA’s recent release of its Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction? The document outlines a proactive approach to identify and eliminate hazards before they cause injury or illness. The recommendations may be particularly helpful to small and medium-sized contractors who lack safety and health experts on staff. These recommendations are advisory by OSHA only and do not create any obligations or regulations. Learn more >

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