Safety, risk, compliance, and workers’ comp are all important to concrete contractors. With that in mind, there are several proposed new OSHA standards that are in the rulemaking stage, one standard that may see some revisions in the near future, and a couple of Letters of Interpretation issued in the last several months of interest to the concrete industry.

Crane standard

The “new” crane standard (29 CFR 1926 Subpart CC) was published in the Federal Register in 2010; on May 23, 2013, OSHA extended this new standard to apply to cranes used in underground construction and demolition. Most of it became effective immediately, with one notable exception: the certification of crane operators.

  • Credit: Jim Rogers

For the first time, the crane standard now requires all crane operators to be certified as defined within the standard. However, enforcement of this portion of the rule was deferred until Nov. 10, 2014, when all crane operators (except operators of derricks, sideboom cranes, and equipment rated at 2000 pounds or less) must be certified/qualified under one of the specified options.

These options include certification by an accredited crane operator testing organization, or qualification by an employer’s in-house program. If using the in-house option, the employer’s program must meet all of the requirements for written and performance testing listed in the standard, and it must be audited by a third-party.

Shortly after the new rule was published, OSHA began receiving additional comments on the issue of crane operator certification regarding the need to certify for type and capacity. This led to several public meetings and in May 2013 OSHA announced its intent to delay enforcement of the crane operator certification rule by another three years to November 2017. Note that OSHA has not followed through, so the date stands at Nov. 10, 2014. Unless an official notice is published, the compliance date will take effect in November.

There are several proposed new standards that are in various stages. Two are actually in the rule-making process, but several industry groups have requested that OSHA open negotiated rule making for CFR 196 Subpart Q – Concrete and Masonry Construction. The agency requested public comments in March 2012 and received relatively few. This issue remains in pre-rulemaking with no further action taken to date.

New silica standard

The hottest topic is the proposed new silica standard. OSHA has published two new proposed standards—one for general industry and one for construction. These proposals will become required standards in the near future.

The proposed silica standards were well-researched before publication. Evidence suggests that the impact of exposure to respirable silica is greater than previously understood and the permissible exposure limits contained in the current OSHA standards are 40 years old and out of date. Creating a separate standard for the construction industry should benefit us, as this standard contains a prescriptive compliance table that lists common construction activities and gives specific administrative and engineering controls that can be put into practice.

Following Table 1 on page 20 will constitute compliance with the new standard and negate any need for things like air sampling and monitoring. Most of the industry can probably follow the prescriptive requirements without significant impact to operations, however the industry is encouraged to review this table and make sure it agrees with the directions provided.

For example, while the table includes provisions for wet saw-cutting, there are no specific provisions included at this time for early entry saw-cutting where water is not used. OSHA is accepting public comments until Jan. 27, 2014. This is the time for industry to propose any necessary changes. For more on this, read "Clearing the Air."