Earlier this year, OSHA came out with its first major general industry rule in years: the revision of the Hazard Communication standard to incorporate the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). While there are no other regulations to be finalized this year or early next that are on par with the magnitude of the HazCom/GHS rulemaking, there are a few that employers should keep an eye on.

Electrical utilities – One of the few major final rules remaining on OSHA's regulatory agenda for this year is the plan to revise both the general industry and construction rules for work involving electric power, transmission and distribution installations (e.g., work typical of utility companies). The rule essentially will sync the construction and general industry regulations for electric utility work. Barring any overly lengthy Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulatory review, it is expected that the rule will be finalized and published later this year.

The construction industry standard addressing this type of work is over 35 years old and is not very flexible, which perhaps is the driving force behind the rulemaking.  At the same time, the agency plans to amend the corresponding standard for general industry so that requirements for work performed during the maintenance of electric power transmission and distribution installations are the same as those for similar work in construction.

The rule will be a comprehensive overhaul for the construction regulation. For general industry work, the rule will result in new requirements for protection from electric arcs, fall protection equipment and minimum approach distances, as well as provisions for the exchange of information between host employers and contractors.