OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
Both workers and employers are expected to benefit from a new rule issued today by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on steps to abate workplace hazards.
The new rule, which is expected to save employers $6 million a year, requires businesses to notify OSHA and inform employees that they have abated workplace hazards identified by inspectors.
According to Gregory R. Watchman, acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, the new regulation will ensure that workers are fully informed about serious hazards and actions taken to eliminate them. He said OSHA also expects to save on resources it now expends to verify hazard abatement.
The new rule eliminates burdens that current verification procedures impose on employers. Where employers eliminate hazards during the course of an inspection, OSHA will not require them to prepare and submit abatement certification documents in these cases. Employers also will not have to document actions taken to correct relatively minor ("other-than-serious") violations as well as many violations classified as "serious."
"Employees will benefit in two ways," Watchman said. "They will know about specific actions being taken to abate the more serious hazards. They also will be warned about citations issued for more serious violations involving movable equipment. This is important information for working with tools and machines identified as hazardous."
In addition to money saved by business, OSHA and its state partners will save an estimated $4.5 million annually as a result of reductions in follow-up inspections and other activity by enforcement staff to ascertain whether hazards have been repaired or eliminated.
In May 1991, the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report to Congress in which it said that OSHA's policies and procedures for determining whether hazards were abated had certain limitations. GAO said that the policies and procedures impeded the agency's identification of employers who had failed to abate the safety and health hazards for which they were cited. GAO recommended that OSHA issue a regulation to correct this deficiency and that this regulation emphasize the abatement of serious violations.
The new regulation will apply to all cited employers with workplaces covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, including general industry, construction, maritime and agricultural employers.
Nine of the 25 states and territories with their own occupational safety and health plans already have some elements of the new abatement verification rule in place. State-plan states will have six months to adopt enforceable rules or policies comparable to OSHA's new regulation. These states and territories include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Virgin Islands, Washington and Wyoming. Connecticut and New York, whose plans cover public employees only, also must adopt comparable regulations.
The effective date of the regulation is May 30, 1997.
OSHA plans an extensive outreach program to inform employers and workers about the regulation. It will include distribution of materials through the OSHA Home Page on the World Wide Web on the Internet, the OSHA Publications Office, and regional, area and state-plan offices, as well as presentations to employer and employee groups.
Notice of the final rule will be published in the Monday, March 31, 1997, Federal Register. The regulation also will be available on the OSHA Home Page on the World Wide Web on the Internet at http://www.osha.gov./.
(Editors: Key provisions of the new rule are outlined in the attached fact sheet.)
Under the final regulation:
Violations that are immediately abated require no abatement certification.
For other-than-serious violations, and for many serious violations, only a simple abatement letter is required to verify abatement. A sample format for this letter is provided in an appendix. OSHA estimates that 90 percent of all abatements will require only this simple letter.
Employers are required to provide additional documentation (proof) of abatement only for the more serious violations (willful, repeat, and those serious violations specified by OSHA in the citation).
Abatement plans and progress reports may be required for more serious violations with abatement periods that exceed 90 days.
Affected employees must be informed about specific abatement activities.
For movable equipment that have serious hazards, a copy of the citation or a warning tag, containing information that conforms with a sample tag supplied by OSHA, must be placed on the cited equipment to alert employees to the presence of the hazard. For hand-held equipment, the tag must be applied upon receipt of the citation. For nonhand-held equipment, the tag must be applied before the equipment is moved.
The regulation provides examples of abatement documents and warning tags.
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