If President Trump’s choice to lead the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, senior FedEx safety executive Scott Mugno, is confirmed, he would face important construction issues, including a long-delayed regulation for certifying crane operators and implementing new limits for workers’ exposure to airborne silica and beryllium.
Mugno, whose selection was announced by the White House on Oct. 27, has worked for FedEx for 23 years, serving for the last six years as vice president for safety, sustainability and vehicle maintenance at FedEx Ground.
Mugno is not well-known in construction circles, but top safety officials with construction contractor and union groups say they are looking forward to working with him, if the Senate approves his nomination.
Kevin Cannon, Associated General Contractors of America senior director for safety and health services, notes that Mugno’s safety experience with a major company is a plus. Cannon also says that, based on published reports, Mugno is “in favor of a collaborative approach between OSHA and the regulated community, which I think is something that AGC welcomes.”
Cannon says the major OSHA issue for AGC is the agency’s standard for crane safety. More than seven years after it was published in 2010—after years of intra-industry discussion and negotiations—all of the rule’s provisions still haven’t taken effect.
The big remaining issue is the regulation’s crane operator certification provision, which was supposed to kick in on Nov. 10, 2014. Several weeks before that deadline, however, the agency extended the effective date for three more years.
But with that Nov. 10, 2017, deadline drawing near, OSHA proposed extending the operator-certification date by about one more year, to Nov. 17, 2018. “We submitted comments in favor of the extension,” Cannon says. OSHA’s decision on whether to adopt the new 2018 date is probably imminent.
OSHA also has proposed a further one-year extension, to Nov. 17, 2018, for a related crane-rule provision—which requires employers to ensure that crane operators “are competent to operate the equipment safely for one year.”
Chris Cain, North America’s Building Trade Unions director of safety and health, said via email, “We have urged OSHA to complete the [crane-safety] rulemaking in the next year.”
Cain also said, “Worker exposure to beryllium continues to concern us.” OSHA on Jan. 9 published a final rule that includes tighter worker exposure limits for the metal, which can be found in certain kinds of slags used in abrasive blasting. Exposure can cause lung cancer and other diseases, OSHA says.
But with the Trump administration in office, OSHA on June 23 announced it was proposing to make changes in the beryllium rule issued less than six months earlier. The changes would apply only to the construction and shipyard industries.
OSHA would retain the January exposure limit but revoke what it terms "ancillary provisions" for construction and shipyards, such as personal protective equipment and housekeeping. The comment period ended in August; OSHA hasn't yet announced its next step.
Another important OSHA construction rule is its more stringent limit for exposure to silica dust. The agency began fully enforcing its new construction silica standard on Oct. 23. (View summary here.)
Industry is seeking OSHA’s continued help in meeting the requirements. Robert Matuga, National Association of Home Builders assistant vice president for labor, safety and health, noted in a statement, “OSHA has needed leadership in place to be able to address issues of high importance to home builders and remodelers, such as providing compliance assistance for the silica rule.”
But on another front, NAHB and other construction groups last year challenged the construction silica rule in court. Seven lawsuits were filed in six different federal appellate courts. They have been consolidated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which held oral arguments in the case on Sept. 26. (Listen to recording of oral argument here.) A decision is expected within several months.
Story corrected 10/31/17 to add information on OSHA-proposed beryllium rule changes.