Spending bill chides OSHA on regs for fertilizer dealers

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, June 10, 2016 - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration should go through a public rulemaking process before imposing new Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations on fertilizer dealers who handle anhydrous ammonia, a committee report accompanying a Senate appropriations bill says.

The fight over the requirements has been going on since OSHA issued guidance last July that revoked the so-called “retailer exemption” from the PSM standards. Ag retailers, who contend that implementing PSM requirements would cost them dearly, protested and then sued. A ruling from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is pending.

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Meanwhile, dealers' champions in Congress have been nudging OSHA using report language, which does not have the force of law, but is designed to get the agency's attention. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) pushed to include the language.

The report accompanying the omnibus spending bill for fiscal 2016 urges OSHA to propose a rule and accept public comment. OSHA recently began a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness process as the first step in a “comprehensive rulemaking” to update the 20-year-old PSM standard but said that in the meantime, it would not exempt dealers from the inspection, recordkeeping and training requirements of the PSM standard.

The latest report, accompanying the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill, says OSHA should not enforce that standard against retailers until it goes through the full regulatory process and has “an independent third party” conduct a cost-benefit analysis on the effect of lifting the exemption.

Says the report: “OSHA has issued letters of interpretation on substantive policy matters that leave the agency open to liability that can be avoided by going through the proper rulemaking process, including notice and period of public comment. OSHA is expected to implement agency policy changes through the formal regulatory process.”

The spending bill also maintains the current exemption from occupational safety and health laws for farms with fewer than 10 employees that do not have a temporary labor camp.

“The continued exemption for small farms and recognition of limits of the OSHA regulatory authority are critical for family farms,” the committee report says. “It is also important the Department of Agriculture be consulted in any future attempts by OSHA to redefine or modify any aspect of the small farm exemption.”

The bill would provide about $82 million for migrant and seasonal farmworker programs, “which serve members of economically disadvantaged families whose principal livelihood is derived from migratory and other forms of seasonal farm work, fishing, or logging activities,” according to the report.

The committee bill also would give $163 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria initiative.

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In its report, the committee said it “recognizes the importance of addressing antibiotic-resistant bacteria through a ‘One Health' approach, simultaneously combating antibiotic resistance in human, animal, and environmental settings.”

In another part of the report, the committee said that “a number of disease-causing microbes have developed resistance to drugs previously used to treat them” due to “increased global availability and over-prescription of antimicrobial medicines to humans and animals.” The report urged CDC “to consider partnering with a coalition of hospitals, state public health departments, global health nongovernmental organizations, and biotech companies, among others, with the goal of linking global patterns of emerging resistance to their impact in U.S. hospitals and clinical settings. Such a coalition would attempt to identify the most important factors that contribute to the emergence and the spread of (antimicrobial) infections worldwide, and how they are spread to the United States.”

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