Regulations covering notification to employees of any hazardous chemicals in the workplace, safety requirements in grain handling facilities, employer certification of equipment inspections and exposure to benzene in oil refineries have been adopted by the State Industrial Commission.
Even though the four regulations have been adopted, if enough people are interested, Utah Occupational Safety and Health officials will hold a public hearing, said Doug McVey, UOSH administrator, who has the final say on the regulations.The regulations were discussed Wednesday during the commission meeting when McVey said they have been adopted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Because state officials operate the occupational safety program in Utah, the commission is asked to adopt what the federal agency did for conformity.
Adoption of the regulations came within a few weeks after the commission adopted a new policy regarding drafting of new rules in an attempt to keep the number of rules from proliferating as requested by Gov. Norm Bangerter. Two weeks ago, the governor signed an executive order applicable to all state agencies that certain questions must be asked and answers provided before any new regulations are submitted for the rule-making process.
Regarding the regulation for safety in grain-handling facilities, McVey said fires can occur because of dust resulting in grain milling. Although there have been no problems with grain fires and explosions in Utah, McVey said the regulations are designed to keep that record intact.
He said the regulations will affect 55 companies employing about 1,000 workers. It will cost the companies about $150,000 annually and that cost undoubtedly will be passed onto consumers. McVey said the cost will be offset by a low number of injuries or deaths for which employers must pay benefits to survivors or the injured.
McVey said benzene has been recognized as a toxic substance capable of causing acute or chronic health problems since 1900. It is a natural compound in crude oil and gas and is produced in the refining process. There are about 140 employers in Utah employing 2,500 workers affected by the regulation.
The economic impact of the regulation will be light because the industry already is moving toward compliance by using existing engineering controls and respiratory protection, McVey said. Employers will experience about $25,000 in costs, according to the federal government.
Regarding the regulation on notification of employees about hazardous chemicals in the workplace, McVey said manufacturing firms already are covered by the regulation, but it will be expanded to include 35,670 employers with 496,320 employees in oil and gas production, construction, transportation and public utilities, wholesale and retail trade, finance, state government and local government.
Because there are 575,000 different hazardous chemicals in the workplace, McVey said the regulation requires employers to tell their employees about their existence and provide training in how to safely handle the chemicals. Even though it will cost employers more than $10 million for training, McVey said it will alert employees about hazardous chemicals and how to safely deal with them, with the result of fewer injuries or deaths.
In an effort to reduce costs and paperwork for employers, the fourth regulation allows 4,000 employers to certify they have inspected their equipment in lieu of retaining their inspection records.