August 30, 2002

OSHA announced this week a restructuring and realignment of the Agency. The reorganization features the creation of a new Office of Small Business, which will be part of an overall change in the Agency's structure that for the first time will establish a separate organization in OSHA to coordinate compliance assistance activities.

"The workers in this country, and the businesses and organizations that employ them, deserve the very best performance from OSHA," said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "This reorganization realigns our resources and functions around proven strategies that will produce the best results in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses."

The new dedicated compliance assistance organization, the Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs, formalizes OSHA's efforts to expand compliance programs, training, outreach and education programs, and create an organization that builds on and expands the knowledge and successes of the compliance assistance programs currently in place. In addition to the new Office of Small Business Assistance, other new offices created by the reorganization include the Office of Partnerships and Recognition and the Office of Outreach Services and Alliances, both designed to reach out to the business and employer communities.

A second feature of the restructuring is the consolidation of the Directorates of Safety and Health Standards into one unified organization that will address both regulatory and non-regulatory approaches for safety and health standards and guidelines. This change streamlines OSHA rulemaking by integrating all safety and health standards development activity within one organization. The agency will also rename its Directorate of Compliance Programs as the Directorate of Enforcement to clarify and emphasize the strong enforcement that will continue to be pursued under the new restructuring.

"These changes will also enable OSHA to more effectively accomplish the agendas articulated by President Bush and Secretary Chao," said Henshaw, "as well as meet our four strategic program priorities: strong, fair, effective enforcement; expanded compliance assistance, education and outreach; expanded partnerships and voluntary efforts; and national leadership in promoting the value of occupational safety and health."

Other changes taking place under the restructuring plan include replacing the Directorate of Policy with the Directorate of Evaluation and Analysis to better monitor and measure the agency's performance and to track its progress against strategic objectives, and changing the name of the Directorate of Technical Support to the Directorate of Science, Technology and Medicine.


OSHA is seeking comments concerning its proposed extension of the information-collection requirements specified by its Standard on Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) (29 CFR 1910.120).

The Standard specifies a number of collection of information (paperwork) requirements. Employers can use the information collected under the HAZWOPER rule to develop the various programs the standard requires and to ensure that their employees are trained properly about the safety and health hazards associated with hazardous waste operations and emergency response to hazardous waste releases. OSHA asserts that the employer's failure to collect and distribute the information required in this standard will affect significantly OSHA's effort to control and reduce injuries and fatalities.

OSHA has a particular interest in comments on the following issues:

  • Whether the proposed information-collection requirements are necessary for the proper performance of the Agency's functions, including whether the information is useful;
  • The accuracy of OSHA's estimate of the burden (time and costs) of the information-collection requirements, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;
  • The quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and
  • Ways to minimize the burden on employers who must comply; for example, by using automated or other technological information collection and transmission techniques.

A copy of OSHA's Information-Collection Request (ICR) supporting the need for the collections of information collection specified by the HAZWOPER Standard is available for inspection and copying in the Docket Office, or by requesting a copy from Theda Kenney at (202) 693-2222, or Todd Owen at (202) 693-2444. 


OSHA announced in today's Federal Register a notice informing the public that the first set of industry-specific ergonomic guidelines - Guidelines for Nursing Homes - is available for public comment. 

"These guidelines are the result of an extensive and cooperative process involving a wide-ranging, inclusive review of both scientific information and existing ergonomic practices and programs in the nursing home," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We also conducted one-on-one meetings with major stakeholder groups to gather information on best practices that have been successfully used in the nursing home industry to ensure we are recommending practical solutions that will work in the real world."

The guidelines are in three parts, with a reference list at the end:

  • Management Practices discusses the importance of management commitment and employee participation in ergonomics training, occupational health
  • management of musculoskeletal disorders, and ergonomics program evaluation;
  • Worksite Analysis discusses assessment of resident handling tasks and activities other than resident handling; and
  • Control Methods contains illustrations that demonstrate various methods to control common ergonomic stressors.

The guidelines are intended to provide practical solutions for reducing ergonomic-related injuries and illnesses in nursing homes. They will not be used for enforcement purposes. Draft guidelines are being developed for other industries and will also be available for comment.

Interested parties must submit written comments by September 30. Individuals are required to submit their intent to participate in a one-day stakeholder meeting by September 19. (Note: The meeting will be held in the Washington, D.C. area; location and date to be announced following comment period). Written comments (10 pages or fewer) and intent to participate can be faxed to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648 . Three copies of written comments and attachments, or one copy of intent to participate must be submitted to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. GE2002-1, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. Individuals who wish to comment who do not have Internet access can request a printed copy of the guidelines by calling OSHA toll-free at 1-800-321-OSHA.

Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.


The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has voted to recommend that OSHA work to ensure that aboveground chemical storage tanks be regulated under OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) standard.

The Board convened outside Wilmington, DE, to deliberate and vote on a series of findings, root causes, and recommendations arising from a yearlong investigation into the July 17, 2001, explosion at Motiva Enterprise LLC's Delaware City refinery.

Contractor employee Jeffrey Davis, 50, was killed in the explosion. His body was never recovered. Eight other workers were injured when a spark from carbon-arc welding equipment ignited flammable vapors in a 415,000-gallon sulfuric acid storage tank at the refinery. The surrounding sulfuric acid tank farm was heavily damaged in the blast, and an estimated 1.1 million gallons of the powerful corrosive were ultimately released to the environment, including nearly 100,000 gallons that flowed into the nearby Delaware River. A significant fish kill occurred there.

The CSB investigation found significant deficiencies in Motiva's mechanical integrity program. If effective, this program should have prevented the extensive corrosion damage that was evident in several tanks at the farm. Some of the tanks contained thousands of pounds of flammable hydrocarbons in addition to the corrosive sulfuric acid.

According to CSB lead investigator David Heller, "Motiva did not act to prevent hot work - high-temperature cutting that could generate molten metal and sparks - from being performed directly above a corroded hazardous storage tank that had holes in its roof and shell and was known to contain flammable vapors."

The Board found that the incident likely would have been prevented if good safety management processes had been adequately implemented at the refinery. Investigators found Motiva did not consider the tank farm to be covered by the requirements of the OSHA Process Safety Management Standard, which sets safety standards for various chemical operations. The Board recommended that OSHA take steps to include such tanks farms under its regulatory system. Under federal law, OSHA will have 180 days to consider the recommendation.

The CSB is an independent federal agency established in 1998 with the mission to protect workers, the public, and the environment by investigating and preventing chemical accidents. The CSB determines the root causes of these accidents and makes safety recommendations to government agencies, companies, and other organizations. The CSB does not issue fines or citations or apportion responsibility for accidents. 


The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has announced the availability of interactive training for mine operators on compliance with its recently issued standards on hazard communication.

The hazard communication interactive training program, found on MSHA's website, provides guidelines for complying with the hazard communication, or HazCom, standard that requires operators to provide information about hazardous chemicals to their workers.

"This interactive training is the first of its kind to be offered by our agency and we feel it will provide useful assistance to mine operators who need to understand the new HazCom standard and its requirements," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Compliance assistance is key to providing miners with increased protection."The course contains several lessons covering topics related to compliance with the new HazCom standard. The program also contains a template for operators to use in developing their own hazard communication program.

The new HazCom rule is strictly an information and training standard and does not set exposure limits. It requires operators to know what chemicals they have on mine property, to identify those that are hazardous, and to inform miners about their potential exposure and means of protection. To help operators comply with Hazcom, MSHA is also conducting workshops and publishing HazCom training materials that can be used at mine sites.

The new standard becomes effective on Sept. 23, 2002, for mining operations employing more than five miners. It becomes effective on March 21, 2003, for operations employing five or fewer miners.