OSHA Looking At New Shipyard Worker Protections

Building ship in a shipyard

There are more than 500,000 welders employed in the U.S. today, and chances are a few of them will be affected by OSHA’s new rules for shipyard workers.

OSHA recently released a fact sheet on spray painting in shipyards that could have some impact on welders, as they specify that some items must be withheld from areas after a fresh spray painting. These items include any tools and equipment that act as an ignition source.

The reasoning behind this, the report states, is to prevent the primary threats that a shipyard worker can face. These threats include: “Fires and explosions from flammable paints and coatings, as well as exposure to chemical hazards and toxic substances.”

The fact sheet gives several tips on how to avoid these hazards, specifying that workers should bring non-sparking materials and equipment to the yards, instead of ones that could create a spark.

Welding is an activity that often takes place on boats and in shipyards, and there have been instances of fires starting during the process. But it is not OSHA’s only concern when combining the two; they’re also concerned about beryllium standards in the shipyard industry, and how it can affect the health of the workers.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal, primarily used in alloys and oxide ceramics; it can also be used as a trace material in several slag metals.

The OSHA proposal wishes to give protections to workers that have a serious beryllium-related lung disease known as “chronic beryllium disease,” and also provides a revision to the provisions of housekeeping and personal protective equipment.

OSHA is seeking comments on whether the existing standards should cover abrasive blasting in the shipyard industry and welding in the shipyard industry. They are looking to see if there is adequate protection for workers in those specific types of operations.
The reason they’re requesting comment is that they want to avoid “not improving worker protection, and being redundant with overlapping protections in other standards.”

The original OSHA rule went into effect on Jan. 9, 2017, but OSHA announces that it will not enforce this rule until they have decided on whether or not to amend the rule entirely.

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