The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) planned some changes to rules that may affect electrical contractors and their employees.

First, the final rule requiring employers to notify their workers of all hexavalent chromium exposures became effective on June 15, 2010. The rule revises a provision in OSHA’s hexavalent chromium standard that required workers be notified only when they experienced exposures exceeding the permissible exposure limit. Workers exposed to this toxic chemical are at greater risk for lung cancer and damage to the nose, throat and respiratory tract.

Occupational exposures to hexavalent chromium can occur among workers handling pigments, spray paints and coatings containing chromates, operating chrome plating baths, and welding or cutting metals containing chromium, such as stainless steel. Workers breathing hexavalent chromium compounds in high concentrations over extended periods of time may risk developing lung cancer, irritation, or damage to the eyes and skin.

The second change is forthcoming from OSHA. It announced its plans to require improved worker protection from tripping, slipping and falling hazards on walking and working surfaces. A public hearing on the revised changes will be held after the public comment period for the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

The NPRM describes revisions to the walking-working surfaces and personal protective equipment standards to help prevent an estimated annual 20 workplace fatalities and more than 3,500 injuries serious enough to cause people to miss work.

The current walking-working surfaces regulations allow employers to provide outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment, such as lanyards and body belts, that can result in workers suffering greater injury from falls. Construction and maritime workers already receive safer, more effective fall-protection devices, such as self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems, which these proposed revisions would require for general industry workers.

The current walking-working surfaces standards also do not allow OSHA to fine employers who let workers climb certain ladders without fall protection. Under the revised standards, this restriction would be lifted in virtually all industries, allowing OSHA inspectors to fine employers who jeopardize their workers’ safety and lives by allowing them to climb these ladders without proper fall protection.
For more information on either of these new rules, visit www.osha.gov.