n December 9, 2013, OSHA proposed tentative changes to some of its most important chemical safety rules. Here’s a look at the changes, who they affect, what they require and when they would take effect.
Answer: If you’re like most employers, Hazcom is the primary and maybe even only chemical safety standard you need to worry about. The good news is that the changes OSHA is proposing do not apply to Hazcom and “ordinary” chemical hazards—at least not directly.
Answer: The OSHA requirements affected are the ones covering facilities and operations involving not just hazardous but highly hazardous chemicals which pose the risk of explosion, community-altering chemical spills and other safety, health and environmental catastrophes, including:
Answer: The OSHA changes are just a small piece in a national chemical safety and security program. It began in Texas on April 17, 2013, when a chemical explosion at the West Fertilizer Company storage plant killed 15 people and damaged over 150 buildings. Although the plant was subject to lots of different laws, quirks in the rules and lack of coordination caused it to fall through the cracks—OSHA hadn’t inspected the plant since 1985!
So in August, President Obama issued an order (officially known as Executive Order 13650) calling on the different agencies to get together and coordinate their chemical safety requirements and enforcement activities, including not just OSHA but the U.S.:
Answer: The proposal lists 16 changes OSHA is considering. Click here for a Checklist of each one. The key ones:
Answer: No. The Dec. 9 proposal is a list of changes OSHA is thinking about proposing. Explanation: Executive Order 13650 requires OSHA to submit its list of proposed changes by November 1, 2013. The government shutdown threw off the schedule. That’s why OSHA didn’t produce the proposal until Dec. 9
Answer: The next step is for OSHA to collect comments on the changes so it can prepare a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The working group of representatives working on implementing the Executive Order (including the OSHA changes) is holding “listening sessions” with the public in January 2014.
Although the Executive Order doesn’t give a precise regulatory timetable, the next phase would be for OSHA to issue an NPRM. The final rule would take effect 90 days after the NPRM appears in the Federal Register.
Answer: OSHA regulatory changes normally move at the pace of a snail carrying a 10 ton weight on its back up a hill. But because they’re part of a national effort initiated by an Executive Order from the President, these chemical safety changes are likely to be put on a fast track.
We’ll keep you apprised once timing and further details emerge.