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OSHA Revised H&S Standards – Implications for Businesses


OSHA’s 24-year old Standards Improvement Project revised 14 provisions to improve employee health and safety.

The scope of the fourth final rule, an initiative which began in 2016, was to eliminate confusing, duplicative, outdated and unnecessary rules in recordkeeping, general industry, maritime and construction standards. The goal? Save employers $6.1 million per year.

OSHA decided to keep the lockout/tagout standard unaltered, keeping the word “unexpected” in the phrase “unexpected energization or startup of machines and equipment”. Initially, OSHA proposed removing the word, as it believed the standard’s meaning was misunderstood by courts. Yet general feedback was against the change, so OSHA said it will consider revisiting this issue “in light of the overall standard”.

When it comes to regulatory housecleaning, OSHA is no longer classifying feral cats in shipyards as vermin.

Other modifications in this area include:

-          Removing chest X-rays requirements from the acrylonitrile, coke oven emissions and inorganic arsenic standards that fail to detect lung cancer or extend worker life

-          Concerned with identity theft, OSHA is removing the request to collect workers’ Social Security numbers for exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and other H&S records.

-          Updating cotton dust standard medical requirements to reflect evolution in lung-function testing.

Construction standards

Construction standards have seen a major revamp.

The standard covering coke emissions was classified as “invalid” and removed. The agency is also replacing the process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals with a cross-reference to the general industry standard.

When it comes to safety at heights, the new minimum breaking-strength of lanyards, safety belts and lifelines is 5000 pounds, to comply with industry consensus standards.

The final rule excludes three previous revisions such as requiring PPE used in construction to fit each affected worker. OSHA decided this change would not meet the purposes of the Standards Improvement Project and said it may pursue separate rulemakings.

OSHA has also modified the standard for handling, storage, use and disposal of materials, requiring employers to post load limits for storage in buildings under construction. These are in place for all commercial construction sites, except single-family homes and townhouse construction sites.

Aligning with technology

Recognizing mobile technology limitations in requesting emergency services is another area that underwent changes. Because not all mobile carriers provide location data in all areas, the agency decided to keep the requirement to post phone numbers of ambulances, hospitals and physicians at worksites where 911 service is not available.

OSHA has also revisited the criteria for recording occupational hearing loss cases to solve issues of underreporting. Physicians and healthcare professionals need to refer to the standard for determining work-relatedness and add the cross-reference. OSHA says there must be a documented event or noise exposure on the job to conclude that hearing loss is work-related.


This is the fourth final rule under OSHA’s Standards Improvement Project, which began in 1995 in response to a Presidential memorandum to improve government regulations. Other revisions were issued in 1998, 2005, and 2011.


The ABC 2019 Safety Performance study is based on submissions of unique company data gathered from members that deployed its STEP program in 2018. Established in 1950, the Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association representing more than 21,000 members.

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Alexandra Serban
Content Marketing Specialist
Alexandra Serban is the Content Marketing Specialist for Honeywell Industrial Safety. A seasoned writer and digital storyteller, she is learning and reporting on industrial safety news, trends and products.