New regs for Monday: Wheelchairs, seafood, safety training

Monday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for stair-climbing wheelchairs, seafood, safety training on offshore drilling vessels, and disaster assistance at farms.

Here's what is happening:

Wheelchairs: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is loosening the regulations for stair-climbing wheelchairs, the agency announced Friday.

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Stair-climbing wheelchairs, which carry elderly people up and down the stairs in their home, are being reclassified to give the FDA less oversight over these devices.

The FDA said it does not believe this rule-making will put consumers at greater risk, because it believes these devices are generally safe to begin with.

The FDA is moving forward with the reclassification, after it proposed the rule change in June 2013 and held a meeting to discuss it in December 2013.

The rule goes into effect immediately.

Seafood: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is changing its rules to allow food producers to use radiation to extend the shelf life of crustaceans, such as shrimp.

The FDA announced Friday it will allow for the "safe use" of ionizing radiation in order to control food-borne pathogens in crustaceans and, ultimately, so the food will stay good longer.

"While the source of radiation is not literally added to the food, the radiation is used to process or treat food, such that, analogous to other food processing technologies, its use can affect the characteristics of the food," the agency wrote.

This rule, which came at the request of the National Fisheries Institute, applies to crustaceans that are raw, frozen, cooked, partially cooked, shelled or dried, the agency said.

The rule goes into effect immediately.

Safety training: The Coast Guard is considering new safety training requirements for workers who drill for oil in the ocean. The crew members on offshore drilling vessels already face safety training requirements, but the Coast Guard is proposing to train non-crew members.

The Coast Guard pointed out that offshore drilling activities have increased over the last decade. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 crew members in 2010, the Coast Guard believes it is important to make sure everyone on these vessels is trained to respond to emergencies.

"Today, more people and companies are involved in exploration, drilling, production, anchor handling, diving, oil spill response operations, and other such activities than ever before," the Coast Guard wrote. 

"Consequently, this extension of operations limits the availability of emergency resources in both response time and amount of assistance available," it added.

The rules would apply to all non-crew members on offshore supply vessels and mobile offshore units.

The public has 90 days to comment on the proposed rule.

Disaster assistance: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is establishing new payment limits and eligibility requirements for a program that covers farmers whose livestock, fish or bees are killed in a disaster.

The USDA's Commodity Credit Corporation is bringing back the disaster assistance program after Congress reauthorized it in the 2014 farm bill. A similar program expired in 2008.

Farmers who are part of the program can receive financial assistance if their animals were harmed due to blizzards, diseases, water shortages, droughts and fires.

The rule goes into effect immediately.

Chemicals: The Environmental Protection Agency is exempting four chemical substances from a significant new use rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act. 

The rule goes into effect on April 14.

Non-hazardous waste: The Environmental Protection Agency is considering adding three new substances to a list of non-hazardous secondary materials.

The substances include wood processed from construction and demolition debris, paper recycling residuals and creosote-treated railroad ties.

The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed rule.