Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Health Standards Top Construction Advisory Committee's Agenda

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Health Standards Top Construction Advisory Committee's Agenda

Article excerpt

Meeting for the first time in almost two years, OSHA'S Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) agreed recently to pay special attention to problems with the current recordkeeping system, lead in construction, and methylene chloride. The 15-member panel, which includes 11 new members and four reappointed members drawn from industry, labor, and the public sector, formed work groups to address those three areas and pledged to work with OSHA on the timely development of effective standards and enforcement procedures. ACCSH, which is scheduled to meet again July 28-29 in Washington, D.C., also urged OSHA to step up its public information efforts.

Employer representative Henry Randolph, general manager and senior project manager for Randolph & Co., an Atlanta general contractor, urged OSHA to act with "a sense of urgency" to address construction's problems.

Steve Newell, director of OSHA'S Office of Statistics, told the advisory committee that the agency is committed to completely revamping the recordkeeping system for both construction and general industry. This might include scrapping the current OSHA 200 injury and illness form and replacing it with a new log, one that, as Newell envisions it, would not differentiate between injuries and illnesses, but merely cover" recordable cases". Other changes under consideration include a requirement that employers notify employees when their case has been recorded, that whole-site data be kept for multiemployer worksites, and that OSHA develop a better system for targeting inspections.

On the last point, Stephen J. Cloutier, safety and loss control manager for Charlotte, N.C.-based Metric Construction Inc., said OSHA'S current practice of targeting the largest employers and sites, rather than the most hazardous, is a major problem. He urged OSHA to develop better data on the hazards at specific construction sites and to draw on that data in planning inspections.

Regarding standards, panelists were told that the agency's top priority is to issue a final rule on cadmium for general industry and construction by a court-ordered Aug. 31 deadline. Health Standards Director Charles Adkins said a comprehensive lead standard for construction is also a priority and that a proposed rule, which would lower the permissible exposure limit (PEL) from 200 micrograms per deciliter of air to 50 micrograms and would provide other protective measures, may be ready for publication by the end of the year.

Panelists recoiled, however, when informed that, with this timetable, it might be 1995 before a comprehensive lead standard for construction is in place, even though a similar standard for general industry was adopted back in 1978.

"It's really frustrating for me to see it's going to take so long," said committee member Richard Tissiere, president and business manager of Newark, N.J., Local 472 of the Heavy & General Construction Laborers. People, workers, are going to die from lead poisoning."

In the case of methylene chloride, Adkins said OSHA intends to revise its existing standards for construction and general industry simultaneously. OSHA is proposing that the PEL be lowered from 500 ppm to 25 ppm. Upon receiving input from ACCSH, OSHA will hold hearings on the proposed rule in late summer.




Former OSHA-Chief Gerard F. Scannell told a Senate panel recently that Congress and/or OSHA should consider mandating employee participation in safety programs but should not require that that be accomplished through the implementation of joint labor-management safety and health committees (as the current proposed OSHA reform legislation stipulates). At a hearing before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, Scannell, vice president of corporate safety affairs, Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, N.J. …

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