Personal air monitoring to identify and evaluate respiratory hazards

Scenario: When installing spray foam insulation in a commercial building you are using multiple negative air machines to control worker exposures to methylene bisphenyl isocyanate (MDI). Your letter summarized how you evaluated the respiratory hazards in the work area, and you require your installers to wear full face air purifying respirators in the work area. Your evaluation was based on a copy of the manufacturer's material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the foam insulation, as well as a re-occupancy guideline from a manufacturer of foam insulation.

Question: To comply with §1910.134(d)(l)(iii) of OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard, would it be necessary to conduct air testing to evaluate respiratory hazards from the MDI during the application of the foam since the workers are already being required to wear full-face air-purifying respirators?

Response: Not necessarily. OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard at §1910.134(d)(l)(iii) states, "The employer shall identify and evaluate the respiratory hazard(s) in the workplace; this evaluation shall include a reasonable estimate of employee exposures to respiratory hazard(s) and an identification of the contaminant's chemical state and physical form." Although the most reliable and accurate method to determine exposure is to conduct personal air monitoring, it is not explicitly required by the Respiratory Protection standard. Instead, other means can be used to estimate workplace exposures. These methods include, but are not limited to, the use of objective data, application of mathematical approaches, and others. Additional information regarding hazard evaluation can be found at CPL 02-00-120, Inspection Procedures for the Respiratory Protection Standard, paragraph E. When using any of these methods, the data needs to be accurate and representative of conditions at the current work site, including materials being applied and work being performed. In addition, the assessment would also need to consider exposures to any other hazardous chemicals in the foam-application process.

The re-occupancy study that you provided should not be considered a representative estimate of your workers' exposures to MDI during the application of spray foam insulation. The study was a proposed method for determining the delay required before safely reoccupying a building following application of spray-foam insulation. The study did not provide any exposure data for workers' exposures to MDI or other chemicals during application of spray-foam insulation. Thus, this data would not satisfy the requirement at 1910.134(d)(l)(iii) for selection of appropriate respiratory protection.

In conclusion, a reasonable estimate of employee exposure would need to include data that closely resembles your work operation and expected chemical exposures. As stated above, the most accurate and reliable data is obtained by conducting personal air monitoring of your actual operation.

You should be aware that 27 states, including Connecticut, administer their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health programs, or State Plans. All State Plans are required to cover public sector (state and local government) employees (29 U.S.C. 667(c)(6)), and 22 State Plans also cover the private sector. These State Plans must adopt and enforce standards that are at least as effective as those standards promulgated by Federal OSHA (29 U.S.C. 667(c)(2)).

Is a practical test required for crane re-certification.

August 31, 2012

Mr. James T. Callahan
Washington, DC 20036-4707

Re: Cranes; Operator Certification; 1926.1427(b)(2)(iv) and (e)(2)(iv); Whether a practical test is required for recertification.

Dear Mr. Callahan,

Thank you for your April 6, 2011 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in which your former president, Vincent Giblin, asks for guidance regarding the application of Subpart CC of 29 CFR Part 1926, Cranes and Derricks in Construction.  More specifically, you ask whether an independent testing organization's recertification of a crane operator could meet the requirements of 1926.1427 if the recertification process includes a minimum number of hours of crane experience in place of a practical exam.  The answer is yes.

OSHA requires employers to ensure that their crane operators are certified (29 CFR 1926.1427), which mandates that the operator demonstrate sufficient knowledge and skill through both written and practical tests.  See § 1926.1427(a).  With respect to the independent certification programs addressed in your letter, OSHA does not specify different requirements for recertification of operators who have already been certified, stating only that the testing organization certification program must have "testing procedures for recertification designed to ensure that the operator continues to meet the technical knowledge and skills requirements in paragraphs (j)(1) and (2)" of § 1926.1427. § 1926.1427(b)(1)(iv); see also §§ 1926.1427(c)(4) (parallel requirement for audited certification program administered by employers) and (e)(2)(iv) (parallel requirement for certification administered by government entities).1

As you note, OSHA intended this provision to be a performance-based requirement that provides some flexibility to the nationally recognized accrediting agency and the testing organizations it accredits to determine the appropriate recertification testing procedures.  OSHA explained in the preamble to the proposed rule that the negotiated rulemaking committee that developed the provision "believed that testing for recertification would not need to be as rigorous as for initial certification," and that the recertification language in the rule "was therefore included so that recertification procedures appropriate for those who have already been certified would be available."  73 Fed. Reg. 59714, 59812 (Oct. 9, 2008).  OSHA adopted the language without change in the final rule and without further explanation.  75 Fed. Reg. 47906, 58019 (Aug. 9, 2010).

The Agency notes that the recertification procedures must still ensure that the operator possesses the "technical knowledge and skills requirements" in § 1926.1427(j)(1) and (2).  Paragraph (j)(2) requires:
A determination through a practical test that the individual has the skills necessary for safe operation of the equipment, including the following:
  (i) Ability to recognize, from visual and auditory observation, the items listed in § 1926.1412(d) (shift inspection).
  (ii) Operational and maneuvering skills.
  (iii) Application of load chart information.
  (iv) Application of safe shut-down and securing procedures.
While the Agency contemplated that recertification could be less rigorous than the initial certification process, at a minimum, there must be some valid assessment of the operator's performance during the time following the previous certification, such as completing the requisite number of hours without any incident that would call into question the operator's skills in the specified areas.  In order to provide an effective measurement of the operator's current technical knowledge and skills, as required by § 1927.1427(j), OSHA recommends that any determinations based on demonstrated experience should factor in how recent the operating experience is and count only time spent operating a crane and not time accrued while performing other crane-related activities.  Ultimately, however, when a nationally recognized accrediting agency determines that a requisite number of equipment-operation hours are sufficient for verifying an individual's operating skills, no practical exam would be needed for recertification purposes.

Please note that in addition to the practical exam, the recertification process must:
  1. include a written exam that meets the requirements of § 1926.1427(j)(1);
  2. be for the same crane type and capacity for which the operator was previously certified;
  3. be for an operator who has not otherwise demonstrated during the previous certification period that he or she lacks the required knowledge or ability to operate the equipment safely; and
  4. satisfy all of the other applicable requirements of the cranes standard.

permissible to use a metal ramp to unload parts from a semi-trailer

June 27, 2012

Dear Mr. Mann:

Thank you for your April 5, 2012 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Since it involves construction issues, it has been forwarded to the Directorate of Construction for response.  You have a specific question regarding access to a semi-trailer used to store parts on a job site.  This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of only the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated in your original correspondence.

Question:  Is it permissible to use a metal ramp to unload parts from a semi-trailer when needed?

Response:  Yes, the OSHA standards do not have specific requirements for accessing a portable storage trailer on a job site.  A ramp could be a suitable means of access.  However, where the height of the trailer floor exceeds 6 feet, guard rails or other fall protection will be required.

29 CFR 1926.501(b)(6): requires that "Each employee on ramps, runways, and other walkways shall be protected from falling 6 feet (1.8m) or more to the lower level by guardrail systems."


James G. Maddux, Director
Directorate of Construction

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