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OSHA Outlines Regulatory Agenda for 2011

NFDA staff recently attended a conference during which Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels and his staff discussed the agency's regulatory agenda for 2011. In response to questions by NFDA and others, he offered the following information about what lies ahead:
  • OSHA has no plans to re-introduce the ergonomics rule in 2011 – good news for small business! NFDA joined with other business groups to successfully repeal their last effort under the Clinton administration.
  • OSHA's primary focus in 2011 will be employee awareness of health and safety risks of hazardous chemicals. This could lead to greater enforcement efforts to insure employers are complying with applicable employee training and educational requirements.
  • OSHA intends to move forward with an injury and illness prevention program, with a final rule being made in 2011; they cite this rule as having "the highest priority".
    • Michaels did not respond to a question about whether an injury and illness prevention program would consider the size of an employer for its applicability. He did say that the rule is not yet finalized and they are still evaluating the input and comments they have received. He did indicate that this rule would focus on the most dangerous workplaces. Funeral service has one of the lowest accident, injury and illness rates of all industries.
  • OSHA is proposing to modify the current hazard communication standard to align with the provisions of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This could lead to changes to the current hazardous communication standard that funeral homes must comply with. NFDA will share new compliance requirements with members when they are announced by OSHA.
  • Infectious disease will also be a priority in 2011. In the past, OSHA has focused on airborne infections; in 2011, the agency will expand its focus to include droplet and contact exposure, with the overall goal of increased infection control. This could lead to greater enforcement of proper prep room exposure controls.
  • In response to an NFDA question, Michaels stated there are no present plans to specifically revise the current permissible exposure limits for formaldehyde. However, he went on to say that there are 10 to 15 target chemicals being considered for special emphasis; Michaels did not say whether formaldehyde is one of those chemicals. NFDA strongly believes that formaldehyde is one of these chemicals and expects OSHA action to reduce exposure limits for the formaldehyde.
  • OSHA is considering revising the bloodborne pathogens standard in 2011 based on new studies about needle stick. This will impact funeral home prep room practices.

Regardless of what comes down the pike in 2011, NFDA will be actively engaged in whatever regulatory initiatives OSHA undertakes that impact funeral service.