LeClairRyan attorney Joseph P. Paranac, Jr. discussed the recent changes in OSHA rules and regulations that will affect chemical companies and countless employers of all sizes. He spoke at the recent Metropolitan New York Coatings Association (MNYCA) Fall Technical Forum.
“Previously, there was a perception that OSHA inspectors avoided time-consuming, complex inspections, because inspectors’ performance reviews were heavily weighted towards the number of cases they closed,” Paranac explained. “But in September 2015, David Michaels, head of OSHA, revised the inspector review process and awarded Enforcement Unit points tied to the complexity of the inspection. This has encouraged inspectors to take on additional complex investigations. In response, companies may wish to conduct their own self-audits or retain a consultant to make sure their house is clean.”
Perhaps one of the most contested issues is a proposed reduction in the currently permissible eight-hour exposure to Beryllium, a widely-used material that can cause serious diseases, Paranac added.
The changes facing chemical and other industries include a new proposed Beryllium standard, rising penalty amounts, stepped-up rapid response investigations, and new and more extensive HazCom (hazard communications) requirements.
“The current OSHA standard on Beryllium was adopted in 1971,” he reported. “Under that standard, the OSHA eight-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air. OSHA’s new proposed Beryllium standard would reduce the eight-hour PEL to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The proposed new standard would also require personal protective equipment, medical exams and other medical surveillance and training. Industry pushback is likely to result in a modification to that proposal, but some reduction in the allowable exposure is likely, so chemical companies in particular should track this and be sure they comply with the final rules.”
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