November 25, 2001

OSHA has announced it is posting a new draft compliance directive for steel erection on its web site. This is the first time OSHA has published a directive on its public web site in draft form.

"This is a new way in which we can be more accessible and responsive in order to better inform the public," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "We welcome suggestions and look forward to working together with the stakeholders on protecting America's steel workers."

The draft compliance directive includes an overview of the standard, inspection tips for OSHA compliance officers, compliance policy information, and definitions from the text of the standard. 

This is the first time OSHA has posted a draft compliance directive on the web and given the public an opportunity to send in informal suggestions. While suggestions are welcomed and appreciated, this is not part of the rulemaking process; the Agency will not be issuing an analysis on the suggestions received.

 December 10, 2001 is the cut off date for receiving suggestions.

OSHA's new steel erection standard for construction goes into effect on January 18, 2002. The standard addresses the hazards that have been identified as the major causes of injuries and fatalities in the steel erection industry.

Because the directive is in draft form it is not an official Agency policy document.


U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced a new partnership with the City of New York, contractors and other organizations to protect the safety and health of thousands of workers at the World Trade Center disaster site.

"Those who work at Ground Zero are selflessly exposing themselves to serious hazards every day," Chao said. "This is a remarkable partnership to ensure the safety of these heroes as much as possible, because we can't let the terrorists claim another American life."

The WTC Emergency Project Partnership Agreement formalizes a commitment to safety and health among contractors, employees, employee representatives, and governmental agencies participating in the emergency response efforts in lower Manhattan. The agreement was signed by Chao and others in a ceremony during the Construction Industry Partnership's Safety Conference at the Sheraton Manhattan Hotel. 

In addition to OSHA, participants in the partnership are: the New York City Department of Design and Construction and the Fire Department of New York (co-Incident Commanders); Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; Building Trades Employers' Association; Contractors Association of Greater New York; General Contractors Association; and the four prime contractors at the WTC site: AMEC Construction Management, Inc.; Bovis Lend Lease LMB, Inc.; Tully Construction Co., Inc.; and Turner/Plaza Construction Joint Venture.

The partnership agreement outlines a cooperative effort to ensure a safe work environment. New safety and health initiatives have already begun, including a new site orientation training program and establishment of a safety committee that includes representatives from labor and management organizations as well as OSHA and other participating agencies. The orientation program familiarizes workers with potential hazards and personal protective equipment requirements.

John Henshaw, OSHA Administrator, praised the partnership for its commitment to worker safety and health. "The World Trade Center site is potentially the most dangerous workplace in the United States," he said. "Our challenge is to ensure the September 11 tragedy claims no more victims in terms of fatalities or serious injuries or illnesses. That challenge demands a cooperative, highly coordinated effort. This partnership provides the framework for that effort."


OSHA and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) announced a resolution of issues raised by NAM in a lawsuit last March concerning OSHA's revised recordkeeping rule. The settlement assures that the rule will take effect as scheduled on January 1, 2002.

A key provision in the settlement is the agreement that OSHA compliance officers will focus initially on compliance assistance, rather than enforcement. As a result, no citations will be issued for violations of the recordkeeping rule during the first 120 days after January 1, 2002, provided employers strive to meet their recordkeeping obligations and agree to make corrections necessary to bring their records into compliance.

"This agreement sets the tone for the kind of relationship we want with NAM, other industry leaders and all employers," said John Henshaw, OSHA Administrator. "It demonstrates that we can work together for the common goal of worker safety and health. We want employers to have every opportunity to fully understand the key provisions of the recordkeeping rule. This agreement helps pave the way to that understanding."

NAM filed a lawsuit in March 2001 challenging a number of provisions in OSHA's revised recordkeeping rule. As part of the settlement, NAM will withdraw its challenge. OSHA has agreed to clarify certain provisions in the rule.

One of the principal issues in NAM's lawsuit was what constitutes a work-related injury. In the settlement, OSHA explains that a case is work-related if, and only if, a work event or exposure is a discernible cause of the injury or illness, or of a significant aggravation to a preexisting condition and none of the rule's exceptions to work-relatedness applies. Employers must determine whether it is more likely than not that work events or exposures caused or contributed to the injury or illness, or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition. Should an employer decide a case is not work-related, and OSHA subsequently issues a citation for failure to record, the burden of proof would then be on OSHA to show the injury or illness was work-related.

Other aspects of the rule that OSHA agreed to clarify include the following:

  • The rule continues OSHA's existing policy that an employer need not record, as a restricted work case, a case in which the following three conditions are present: (1) an employee experiences minor musculoskeletal discomfort; (2) a health care professional determines that the employee is fully able to perform his or her job functions; and (3) the employer assigns a work restriction to that employee to prevent a more serious condition from developing.

  • An employee's report of an injury or illness does not automatically establish the existence of the injury or illness for recordkeeping purposes. The employer must first decide whether an injury or illness has occurred. If the employer is uncertain, he or she may refer the employee to a physician or other health care professional for evaluation.

  • An employer must record a case in which oxygen is administered to an employee who has been exposed to a substance and exhibits symptoms of an injury or illness. However, if oxygen is administered purely as a precautionary measure where no symptoms have been exhibited, the case is not recordable.

The language specified in the settlement will be incorporated into the forthcoming compliance directive scheduled for publication this month. The directive guides OSHA's compliance officers in enforcing the recordkeeping rule and ensures consistent inspection procedures are followed.

OSHA revised its recordkeeping requirements last January. The final rule is effective on Jan. 1, 2002; however, OSHA announced last month that three provisions of the rule will be delayed for one year. They include the criteria for recording work-related hearing loss; the rule's definition of "musculoskeletal disorder" (MSD); and the requirement that employers check the MSD column on the OSHA log.

The settlement agreement will be published in the Federal Register by December 16.


Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced a new model to assist employers and employees in dealing with possible workplace exposures to anthrax in mail handling operations. The Anthrax Matrix guides employers in assessing risk to their workers, providing appropriate protective equipment and specifying safe work practices for low, medium and high risk levels in the workplace.

"Most employers and employees face little or no risk of exposure to anthrax and need only minimal precautions," Chao said. "But some may have to deal with potential or known exposures, and we want to make sure they have all possible information available to protect Americans at their workplace."

Chao pointed out that there have been only four deaths and 17 confirmed cases of anthrax infection but indicated that the department wants to be proactive in assisting employers and workers concerned about anthrax and other potential terrorist threats.

OSHA developed the matrix in consultation with the U.S. Postal Service, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI. OSHA expects to continually update information on anthrax and other terrorism threats as new guidance becomes available.

"The OSHA information is easy to access and understand," Chao said. "We are providing needed guidance, not creating new requirements. The world has changed since September 11. Threats to our national security now can clearly involve the workplace."

John L. Henshaw, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA said, "OSHA's role remains the same - assuring the safety and health of America's workers - but the paradigm has shifted. We must shift with it to provide the best possible guidance to help employers and employees address new threats."

The Anthrax Matrix, shaped like a pyramid, includes three sections: green for low, yellow for medium and red for high risk of exposure. Each section links to useful information and practical guidance to help determine an appropriate response.There is also general information on anthrax and mail handling procedures on the agency's website, links to detailed information from CDC, the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI and other sources of information on biological and chemical hazards and emergency preparedness.