Twice a year, OSHA publishes a regulatory agenda as a way to keep the regulated community informed regarding upcoming activity. The latest edition was issued in July 2013 and includes a list of 26 rules in various stages of development as well as milestones scheduled for completion in 2013. 

While the progress on these OSHA rules is hypnotizingly slow, it is important to stay informed because OSHA offers the regulated community the opportunity to provide feedback and input during the rulemaking process. The agency also provides extensive supporting analysis – mandated by Congress – that can help an EHS manager get a head start on assessing his or her organization's readiness for these new or changing rules. The following are summaries of three rules that OSHA is working on that should be considered when planning for 2014 and beyond. 

Combustible Dust (RIN: 1218-AC41)

In a study conducted in 2006, the Chemical Safety Board documented hundreds of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from combustible dust explosions. As a result, OSHA began working on this rule in October 2009 with the release of an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. 

Any workplace where combustible dust is generated and allowed to accumulate over time is at increased risk of a serious fire or explosion. Some of the workplaces identified by OSHA that will be affected by this rule include those that process wood, paper and food products (especially sugar and grains); those that process plastics; pharmaceutical manufacturers; and any business that stores and processes coal. 

The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review was on the docket in November, one of the many steps to the rulemaking process that provide a detailed assessment of the anticipated economic impacts to small business resulting from this rule. While OSHA has not completed its economic evaluation for this rule, some stakeholders have expressed concern that some costs of the expected requirements (e.g., updating power-plant equipment to meet NFPA 654 specifications) could run in the millions of dollars per power plant. The release of a final rule for combustible dust could take up to five years, so this is the optimal time in the rulemaking process to provide input.