Concrete Products is the leading source for Concrete Plants, Concrete Mixers, Precast, and Ready Mix news.

Hazard Communication Plan takes hold; OSHA extends silica rule comment period

Effective this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires chemical manufacturers, distributors or importers (including ready mixed concrete producers) to adjust their Hazard Communication Plan. The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association notes specifically that member producers need to change their Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS’s to a new 16-part format Safety Data Sheet (SDS).

New guidelines require labels on hazardous chemicals to have pictograms, Chemical Hazard Classifications, Precautionary Statements and Signal Words. HCS also calls for employees to be trained about the various aspects of a company’s Hazardous Communication Plan, the deadline for which is also this month.

A recent addition to NRMCA’s Safety Series is a CD-based PowerPoint training guide, “Hazard Communication Standards Guide for the Ready Mixed Concrete Industry.” It provides producers the tools to comply with HCS through trainer notes, attendee slides, sample SDS for ready mixed concrete and OSHA QuickCards highlighting the Communication changes. Finally, a quiz and training documentation form are enclosed to help keep track of personnel training.

SILICA RULE
NRMCA and other concrete and cement groups are continuing to track another development at OSHA: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica. The agency has extended the public comment period on the proposal from this month until January 27.

OSHA proposes lower, harmonized permissible exposure limits (PEL) for quartz from current general industry and construction thresholds—100 and 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air (µg/m3) expressed in eight-hour weighted averages, respectively—to 50 µg/m3. The notice of proposed rulemaking was posted on the osha.gov site in late August, and formally published last month in the Federal Register, triggering a 60-day public comment period. Along with soliciting written input on the Crystalline Silica exposure standard, the agency is scheduling a series of public hearings beginning in mid-March.

“We strongly encourage the public to assist in the process of developing a final rule by submitting written comments and participating in public hearings,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “We especially hope to hear from employers, workers and public health professionals who have experience in successfully protecting workers from silica-related diseases.”

The extended comment period and public hearings will be followed with a post-hearing comment period. Members of the public who filed a timely written notice of intention to appear will be able to submit post-hearing comments to the docket.

Additional information on the proposed rule, including five fact sheets and procedures for submitting written comments and participating in public hearings, is available at www.osha.gov/silica. Members of the public may comment on the proposal by visiting www.regulations.gov.

INJURY, ILLNESS RECORDS
After the Crystalline Silica standard announcement, OSHA announced another proposed rule potentially affecting large employers throughout construction and smaller contractors. It would require establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit work-related illness and injury records on a quarterly basis. A companion provision covering certain industries with high injury and illness rates calls for companies employing 20 or more to electronically submit work-related incident summaries annually.

A public comment period for the proposed rule, detailed www.osha.gov runs through February 6, the agency accepting stakeholder and citizen input on “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” at www.regulations.gov or at its Washington, D.C., headquarters. OSHA plans to eventually post the data online, per President Obama’s Open Government Initiative, contending that “Timely, establishment-specific injury and illness data will help target compliance assistance and enforcement resources more effectively by identifying workplaces where workers are at greater risk, and enable employers to compare their injury rates with others in the same industry.”

The agency announced the proposed rule after release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, which estimates that three million workers were injured on the job in 2012. “Three million injuries are three million too many,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “With the changes being proposed in this rule, employers, employees, the government and researchers will have better access to data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

The proposal does not add any new requirement to keep records; it only modifies an employer’s obligation to transmit these records to OSHA.”

Reflecting on Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report figures for 2012, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels noted, “Three million injuries are three million too many. With the changes being proposed in this rule, employers, employees, the government and researchers will have better access to data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”