Notable Updates from OSHA for 2024 | By: Catherine A. Veeneman
The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has multiple initiatives taking shape over the next few months, including final rules going into effect, proposed rules open for comment, and outlines listing potential future proposed rules. One aspect these initiatives have in common is that they will each impact a wide variety of employers. It is therefore important for employers to keep abreast of each initiative. A summary of the most prominent initiatives is listed below. While reviewing this information, employers should keep in mind that some state or local authorities have established more stringent standards. For example, California employers should keep in mind that requirements set in place by Cal/OSHA are often stricter and require more from employers to ensure compliance. Employers should always check state and local standards whenever reviewing their policies for compliance with OSHA standards.
I. OSHA Amends Requirements Concerning Submission of Injury and Illness Forms
In July, OSHA issued a final rule that amends its occupational injury and illness recordkeeping regulation to require entities with 20 or more employees in designated industries to electronically submit information from select OSHA injury and illness forms online to OSHA once a year. Under current regulations, employers with more than 10 employees in most industries are required to keep records of occupational injuries and illnesses at their establishment.
Under the new regulation, set to take effect on January 1, 2024, entities with 20 or more employees in certain designated industries will now be required to electronically submit information from the designated forms to OSHA on an annual basis. The specific requirements change depending upon the number of persons employed.
Employers in the affected industries with 20 or more employees are encouraged to check the final rule to ensure their practices are in compliance before this final rule takes effect on January 1, 2024.
II. OSHA Commences Three-Year National Emphasis Program Regarding Warehouse and Distribution Center Operations
Over the Summer, OSHA launched a three-year nationwide emphasis program (NEP) regarding warehouse and distribution center operations, in direct response to significant growth in the warehousing industry within the last decade. Per OSHA, the reason for the NEP is that warehousing and distribution centers pose serious safety and health hazards that could result in death or serious physical harm. These hazards include struck-by hazards, caught-in-between hazards, slips, trips, and fall hazards, blocked aisles, means of egress, powered industrial vehicles and other material handling equipment, heat hazards, and ergonomic hazards.
The NEP will pertain to inspections of warehousing and distribution center operations, mail/postal processing and distribution centers, parcel delivery/courier services, and certain high injury rate retail establishments. With the exception of inspections of high injury rate retail establishments, inspections under the NEP will be comprehensive safety inspections and will focus on workplace hazards common to those industries, including powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling/storage, walking-working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection.
Employers should check to see if they are subject to this NEP by reviewing the list of affected NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) codes. If so, they should audit safety protocols to ensure compliance.
III. OSHA Clarifies Safety Gear Requirements in the Construction Industry
OSHA announced a proposed rule to revise the personal protective equipment (PPE) standard in the construction industry to explicitly require that all PPE must fit employees properly. As this proposed rule is a clarification of the existing rule, rather than a substantive change to existing policy, employers should expect a similar final rule in short order.
IV. OSHA Clarifies Scope of Incidents Qualifying as Workplace Violence
OSHA published a standard interpretation letter concluding injuries resulting from workplace violence are recordable, even if the incident occurs outside of the workplace. Typically, such letters are written in response to an inquiry posed either by the public or an OSHA field office regarding how an OSHA standard or regulation is to be interpreted and enforced. This particular letter concerned OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation regarding recording work-related injuries and illnesses. The question posed to OSHA was when, if ever, an incident occurring outside of the workplace could be considered workplace violence for purposes of the recordkeeping regulations.
OSHA’s response explains that, ultimately, the question of whether an incident is workplace violence will depend on whether the conditions involved were “occupational” or, put differently, related to work. Whether the employee was injured while at the employer’s workplace or while traveling for work, the injury will be considered work-related if the employee’s work was a causal element of the injury or illness. Employers should be mindful of this standard when reviewing relevant incidents going forward.
V. OSHA Outlines Potential Options for Upcoming Heat Sickness Prevention Standard
Finally, OSHA released an outline of potential options for various elements of a proposed rule concerning a heat sickness prevention standard. OSHA’s plan is to create a standard that could require employers to create a plan to evaluate and control heat hazards in their workplace. The current proposal lists several options for effective control measures that reflect best practices and guidance, based on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) “Criteria for A Recommended Standard”, existing state standards, and stakeholder comments. The purpose of this proposal is to give representatives of small entities an opportunity to provide input on which proposed options would be the least burdensome and most feasible for small businesses to implement while still adequately protecting workers from dangerous heat.
OSHA plans to craft a proposed rule from the feedback received in response to this outline. The areas OSHA is seeking input are: (1) heat injury and illness prevention program; (2) hazard identification and assessment; (3) hazard prevention and control measures, including engineering and administrative controls, (4) medical treatment and heat-related emergency response; (5) worker training; (6) recordkeeping; and (7) communication on multi-employer sites.
It is unclear if there will be a proposed rule before the end of President Biden’s current term, but the outline at least provides a roadmap for employers as to where OSHA is likely headed in terms of heat hazards in the workplace, should Democrats retain control of the White House in 2024.
This publication is published by the law firm of Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP. The publication is intended to present an overview of current legal trends; no article should be construed as representing advice on specific, individual legal matters. Articles may be reprinted with permission and acknowledgment. ECJ is a registered service mark of Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP. All rights reserved.