[WEBINAR] OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule

On Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 1:00 PM Eastern, join Eric J. Conn, Amanda Strainis-Walker, and Micah Smith of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group, for a complimentary webinar regarding “OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule.”

Following the tragic West Fertilizer explosion in 2013, then-Pres. Obama issued an Executive Order directing OSHA, EPA and other agencies to “modernize” how the government regulates chemical manufacturing.  In response, OSHA and EPA took sweeping actions, from rulemaking and interpretation letters to overhaul the PSM and RMP regulatory landscape, to new enforcement initiatives, like a the Chemical Facilities and Petroleum Refineries PSM National Emphasis Program.  When Pres. Trump took office, several key process safety and environmental regulations were delayed or repealed, new political leadership was installed, and enforcement policies were reexamined.  This webinar will review the status and likely future of OSHA’s PSM and EPA’s RMP regulatory programs.

During this webinar, participants will learn:

Continue reading

Status of OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule – 1st Deadline (Dec. 15) to Submit Injury Data is Upon Us

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

The December 15, 2017 deadline for large employers and small employers in certain “high hazard industries” to submit injury and illness data to OSHA is less than a month away.  We have been tracking closely the Trump Administration’s treatment of OSHA’s new E-Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule, and while there have been plenty of signals that this rule is due for an overhaul, or even possibly to be rescinded, it appears that the initial data submission deadline of December 15th is going to stand.

Therefore, if employers have not already done so, they should immediately evaluate whether the rule applies to any or all of their workplaces, get familiar with and set up an account in OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (the portal that will receive the injury data), and submit covered injury data (i.e., their 2016 OSHA 300A Annual Summary data) by December 15, 2017.

Background about the Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

Historically, unless OSHA opened an enforcement inspection at an employer’s workplace or the Bureau of Labor Statistics requested an employer’s participation in its annual injury data survey, employers’ Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Logs and related forms remained strictly in-house. Employers kept the data and their OSHA logs in their HR or Safety Department office, posted them internally for employees to view for a couple of months each year, used the data themselves to make decisions about how to reduce risks of injuries and illnesses in their workplaces, and then stored the records in a cabinet or desk drawer for five years.  Now, OSHA’s new rule requires hundreds of thousands of employers to proactively submit these historically private records to OSHA, which in turn may publish the data online for all the world to see.

Key Changes in OSHA’s New Recordkeeping Rule:

  1. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain so-called “high hazard industries” must each year submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries only.
  2. All establishments with 250 or more employees (in industries not exempt from keeping injury logs) must submit to OSHA annually their injury and illness data from their OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Incident Reports, and 300A Annual Summaries. In this first year of the rule, however, for 2016 injury data to be submitted in calendar year 2017, all employers, irrespective of size, are only required to submit 300A Annual Summary data.
  3. The submissions to OSHA must be made electronically, via a purportedly secure web portal.
  4. OSHA stated its original intent was to publish the data online, likely in a manner that is sortable, searchable, filterable, and as embarrassing to employers as possible. It is unclear whether the Trump Administration will publish the data, but the records may nonetheless be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests by plaintiffs’ attorneys, the media, union organizers, and competitors, to use the data in a variety of ways to harm employers.

Deadline to Submit Data – A Moving Target

The deadline to submit data has been a moving topic and source of uncertainty since the Trump Administration took the reins at OSHA.  The original deadline to submit data this year was July 1st.  On May 17, 2017, OSHA announced an indefinite suspension of the original July 1 deadline, and later published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on June 26, 2017 to extend the submission deadline to December 1, 2017.  The proposed rule was finally cleared by OMB last week, but has not yet been published in the federal register.

However, an advance copy of the Federal Register publication shows yet another change to the data submission deadline.  After reviewing comments to the proposed rule to push the deadline to December 1st, and consider delays launching the portal, getting OMB approval, and a brief stint when the portal was taken down because of a potential hack, OSHA tacked on two more weeks for a final data submission deadline of December 15, 2017.

Having passed on this last opportunity for a substantial delay to allow time to re-write the rule, it is time now to concede that the first data submission is going to happen. Continue reading

State Plan Implementation of OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Data Submission Rule

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

OSHA’s Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) requires employers of  certain sizes that fall into certain categories to proactively submit electronic injury and illnesses data to OSHA through its new web portal – the “Injury Tracking Application.”  The new rule dramatically changes the responsibilities and impacts of OSHA’s long-standing injury and illness recordkeeping program.RK Fact Sheet

Historically, unless OSHA opened an enforcement inspection at an employer’s workplace or the Bureau of Labor Statistics requested an employer to participate in its annual injury data survey, employers’ OSHA 300 Logs and related forms remained strictly in-house. Employers kept the data and their OSHA logs in their HR or Safety Department office, posted them internally for employees to view for a couple of months, used the data themselves to make decisions about how to reduce risk of injury and illness in their workplaces, and then stored the records in a cabinet or desk drawer for five years.  Now, OSHA’s new rule requires hundreds of thousands of employers to proactively submit these historically private records to OSHA, which in turn may publish the data online for all the world to see.

Key Changes in OSHA’s New Recordkeeping Rule

  1. All establishments with 250 or more employees (in industries not exempt from keeping injury logs) must submit to OSHA annually their injury and illness data from their OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Incident Reports, and 300A Annual Summaries.
  2. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain so-called “high hazard industries” must each year submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries only.
  3. All of the submissions to OSHA must be made electronically, via a purportedly secure website.
  4. OSHA stated its original intent was to publish the data online, likely in a manner that is sortable, searchable, filterable, and as embarrassing to employers as possible.

Note however, in this first year of the rule, for the upcoming data submission of 2016 injury data to be made in calendar year 2017, all employers, irrespective of size, are only required to submit 300A Annual Summary data.

Deadline to Submit Data – A Moving Target

The deadline to submit data has been a topic of discussion, and there remains some uncertainty whether employers will be required to electronically submit injury and illness data.  Continue reading

OSHA’s Fatality, Hospitalization & Amputation Reporting Rule: Lessons Learned [Webinar Recording]

On November 14, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. DiSalvo of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding “OSHA’s Fatality, Hospitalization & Amputation Reporting Rule.

In former President Obama’s second term, his Administration rolled-out a major change to OSHA’s Fatality & Significant Injury Reporting Rule.  Not to be confused with the new Electronic Recordkeeping Rule (which requires certain employers to submit injury and illness data to OSHA on annual basis), this amended rule required all employers to make prompt phone calls to OSHA when work related fatalities or covered in-patient hospitalizations and amputations occur.

The rule has resulted in thousands more reports of incidents to OSHA than before.  Now, three years into the new reporting scheme, we have learned a lot of lessons about what is being reported to OSHA, what non-mandatory reports are often made, and what OSHA is doing with all the new reported incidents.

During this webinar, participants learned:

Continue reading

Trump Announces Nomination of Scott Mugno to Lead OSHA as Assistant Secretary of Labor

By Eric J. Conn

After months of rumors and speculation, this morning, October 30, 2017, the White House finally announced its choice for the role of Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.  I am personally very pleased that nomination was Scott A. Mugno.

Scott presently serves as the Vice President of Safety, Vehicle Maintenance, and Sustainability for FedEx Ground.  In that position, he has been in charge of the safety and health mission for an organization with nearly 90,000 workers, across more than 588 workplaces, and a fleet of more than 58,000 trailers.  He has an impeccable reputation in the safety space as a great leader, a tremendous motivator for safety, a faithful believer in the safety mission, and a true safety professional.  For the past six years, Mr. Mugno has successfully curated FedEx Ground’s core principle of “Safety Above All,” which means that:

“no package [FedEx] could ever carry is worth jeopardizing the safety of one employee.”

The White House touted Scott’s qualifications for the position of OSHA’s chief administrator in a press release announcing his nomination:

“His responsibilities in both [of his Safety leadership positions at FedEx] included developing, promoting and facilitating the safety and health program and culture. Mr. Mugno was twice awarded FedEx’s highest honor, the FedEx Five Star Award, for his safety leadership….”

Scott has been a friend and professional associate for many years, and I believe his diverse background puts him in a unique position to be a dynamic and successful leader at OSHA.  In his current job, Scott is a Corporate Safety Director.  Previous to his FedEx Ground position, Scott was the Corporate Safety Director at FedEx Express in Memphis.  Prior to that, he had been a practicing regulatory attorney for both private employers and law firms.  Before that, he spent six years serving our nation as an attorney in the Army JAG corps.  The combination of all of these past experiences puts Scott in a unique position to successfully execute OSHA’s safety mission.

OSHA’s chief administrator has typically come from the ranks of other government roles, academia, or private law firms.  In OSHA’s history, rarely has the agency been led by someone who has served as Continue reading

Reporting In-Patient Hospitalizations to OSHA: Common Misunderstandings and Mistakes

By Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. DiSalvo

The regulatory requirement at 29 C.F.R. 1910.39, OSHA’s Fatality and Serious Injury Reporting Rule, which requires employers to report to OSHA certain in-patient hospitalizations, may seem straightforward, but there are several nuances employers routinely miss that affect the determination whether a hospitalization is actually reportable to OSHA.

Although failing to timely report a reportable hospitalization can be cited, and could set up an employer for costly Repeat violations, over-reporting has its own significant consequences.  Reporting hospitalizations very often triggers an on-site enforcement inspection, and OSHA issues a citation at least 75% of the time it conducts an inspection (an even higher percentage for incident inspections).  Moreover, at least 85% of OSHA citations are characterized as Serious, Repeat or Willful, and OSHA’s civil penalty authority has skyrocketed by 80% in the past two years.  Accordingly, it is critical that employers understand the intricacies of what makes an employee’s visit to the hospital a reportable event, and conversely, what does not, so as to avoid unnecessary and costly reports to OSHA.

As we outlined in a prior article discussing OSHA’s updated Fatality and Serious Injury Reporting Rule, under the current reporting requirements, employers must:

“within 24 hours after the in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees [that occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident] . . . report the in-patient hospitalization . . . to OSHA.”

This is a significant change from the prior reporting rule, which required a report to OSHA only if three or more employees were hospitalized overnight.  It was extraordinarily rare that a single workplace incident resulted in the overnight hospitalization of three or more workers, and so the instances of reporting under that rule were infrequent.  The new rule, however, requires a report to OSHA for the hospitalization of a single employee, which has opened the door to thousands more incidents that must be evaluated for possible reporting.

Although the current regulation has increased the number of employee hospitalizations that are being reported to OSHA, many of those incidents reported to OSHA did not actually meet the criteria for reporting, based on a very particular definition of hospitalization and a limited time period for when the hospitalization must occur.  In other words, many incidents are being reported to OSHA (effectively inviting OSHA to conduct a site enforcement inspection) that should not have been reported at all.

What Is an “In-Patient Hospitalization”?

Under the old requirement to report the hospitalization of three or more workers, the operative analysis was whether the employees stayed overnight at the hospital.  The new regulation lowers the employee count from three or more to just a single employee, but more importantly, redefines the term hospitalization from an overnight stay to the “in-patient hospitalization . . . for care or treatment.”  Let’s take that in parts. Continue reading

[Webinar] Addressing Employee Complaints: Whistleblower Claims and OSHA Notices of Hazards

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM Eastern, join Kara Maciel, Amanda Walker, and Dan Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national Labor & Employment Practice and OSHA Practice, for a complimentary webinar regarding “Addressing Employee Complaints: Whistleblower / Retaliation Claims and OSHA Notices of Alleged Hazards.”

OSHA whistleblower complaints have been on the rise, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives more charges of retaliation than any other type of claim for the statutes they regulate, including Title VII discrimination.

It is essential for employers to develop, maintain, and evaluate their employee complaint policy and procedure to foster a supportive work environment and address employee issues before they turn into a regulatory issue or the basis for litigation.  As part of this complaint policy, employers must also ensure their management representatives understand how to effectively interact with a complaining employee after a grievance has been communicated, including dealing with performance issues in a manner that makes clear any adverse employment action is distinct from the employee’s complaint.

During this webinar, participants will learn:

Continue reading

The Latest on OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule [Webinar Recording]

On September 12, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding the Latest on OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule.

OSHA’s controversial Electronic Injury and Illness Recordkeeping data submission rule, along with new Anti-Retaliation elements, has thus far survived a barrage of negative stakeholder comments during the rulemaking, multiple enforcement deferrals and delays of effective dates, and legal challenges complete with preliminary injunction motions.  As of today, all elements of the rule are still in effect, including limits on post-injury drug testing and safety incentive programs, and barring a change before December 1, 2017, hundreds of thousands of workplaces will, for the first time, submit injury and illness recordkeeping data to OSHA, possibly for publishing online.

During this webinar, participants learned:

Continue reading

OSHA Status of Pres. Trump’s Agenda for the “Deconstruction of the Administrative State” [Webinar Recording]

On August 15, 2017, Kathryn M. McMahon, Amanda Strainis-Walker, and Micah Smith of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice, presented a webinar regarding the OSHA Status of Pres. Trump’s Agenda for the “Deconstruction of the Administrative State”

President Trump was carried to the White House on promises (or threats) of rolling back government regulations.  At the CPAC conference this year, Pres. Trump’s Sr. Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon, framed much of Trump’s agenda with the phrase, “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of regulations and taxes that the president says have stymied economic growth.  OSHA regulations are apparently at the heart of this deconstruction.  Now, only half a year into the Trump Administration, we have seen significant changes to the OSHA regulatory landscape.  This webinar will take a deep dive into the actions taken by the Trump Administration in conjunction with the Republican Congress to roll-back OSHA regulations or otherwise lessen the punitive influence of OSHA on our nation’s employers.  From the repeal of several Obama-era midnight rules, to a budget proposal that could gut OSHA’s enforcement efforts, to a series of Executive Orders that shift to a business friendly regulatory agenda.

This webinar addressed:

Continue reading

Trump Admin. Pumps the Brakes on New OSHA Rules in its First Regulatory Agenda

By Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Practice

President Trump was carried to the White House on promises (or threats) of rolling back government regulations.  At the CPAC conference this year, Pres. Trump’s Sr. Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon, framed Pres. Trump’s agenda with the phrase: “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of regulations the President believes have stymied economic growth. OSHA regulations are apparently at the heart of this deconstruction.  Now, only half a year into the Trump Administration, we have seen significant changes to the OSHA regulatory landscape, from the Congressional Review Act repeal of Obama-era midnight rules, to a budget proposal that could shrink OSHA’s enforcement efforts and prioritize compliance assistance, to a series of Executive Orders that shift OSHA to a business friendly regulatory philosophy.

And now, the Trump Administration has issued its first “Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions,” and the path to “deconstruction of the administrative state” is clearer.  The spring Unified Regulatory Agenda explains what agencies like OSHA and EPA will undertake on the rulemaking front, and the shift in the Dept. of Labor’s regulatory agenda for rules and standards affecting workplace safety is more pronounced than ever.  The new Regulatory Agenda places a bevy of Obama-era regulatory priorities out in the cold.  Among them, new standards to address infectious diseases in healthcare, various chemical exposures, and other broad-based initiatives have been canceled or placed on the regulatory back burner.

Here’s a breakdown of what Pres. Trump’s first Regulatory Agenda reveals about OSHA’s future plans:

Controversial Rules Off the Table

To the relief of industry advocates who spent years wringing their hands over OSHA’s aggressive rulemaking agenda during the Obama Administration, the new Administration put many of the Agency’s previous plans on ice.  This set of rules will not see further action for years.

For example, a comprehensive rule addressing combustible dust, which has been in the works for nearly a decade, is off the table. This rulemaking was spurred by a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board, and was pursued by top officials in the Obama-era OSHA.  The Trump Administration has removed it from the Regulatory Agenda.

Here are some of the higher profile OSHA rulemaking efforts that are now effectively dead in the water: Continue reading

Joint and Multi-Employer, Independent Contractor, and Temp Worker Employment Law and OSHA Issues [Webinar Recording]

On July 11, 2017 attorneys from Conn Maciel Carey’s national Labor & Employment Practice and OSHA Practice, delivered a webinar regarding Joint and Multi-Employer, Independent Contractor, and Temp Worker Employment Law and OSHA Issues.”

Employers’ perceptions about their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality.  Although an employer may classify workers as temporary workers or independent contractors, that does not mean the Department of Labor takes the same view.  At the tail end of the Obama Administration, DOL was vocal about its belief that most workers should be treated as employees, insinuating that in most cases, employers will be accountable for the specific obligations of an employer-employee relationship.  The Trump Administration is moving in the other direction, but a lot of questions remain unanswered or muddled.  DOL has also been cracking down on employee misclassification and division of responsibility among multiple employers. Additionally, employers continue to have certain safety and health related obligations and potential OSHA liability depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or in joint employer situations.

It is essential for employers to carefully evaluate the employment relationship and their own individual function in the multi-employer context.

This webinar covered:

  • Criteria used to evaluate the employer-employee relationship
  • Employers roles on a multi-employer worksite and the specific obligations associated with each role
  • Guidance on how to clearly establish an independent contractor relationship
  • How to lawfully and effectively manage temporary workers at your workplace

Here is a link to a recording of the webinar. Continue reading

Unions Leverage OSHA and other Dept. of Labor Enforcement as an Organizing Tactic

By Kara M. Maciel, Eric J. Conn & Lindsay A. DiSalvo

As the private sector continues to see a decline in labor union membership among employees, labor unions are struggling to remain relevant and recruit new, dues-paying members.  Traditionally, when a labor union begins an organizing campaign at a workplace, the federal agency at the center of the process is the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”).  The NLRB’s purpose is to protect the rights of workers to organize and to freely choose whether or not to be represented by a labor union.  Indeed, the NLRB is an intrinsic part of the election process, and the NLRB may also become involved in a union organizing campaign if, for instance, the union asserts that the employer has committed an unfair labor practice.

However, unions are more and more often engaging with or depending on the regulations of other federal agencies as a tactic to gain leverage during organizing campaigns.  There are numerous ways a union may influence the outcome of an organizing campaign by using federal agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) or the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) of the Department of Labor (“DOL”), to persuade employees to embrace the union, or to put pressure on employers to concede to union representation.

Taking OSHA as an example, an on-site workplace safety inspection, or even just the threat of an inspection, can impact an organizing campaign in a manner favorable for the union.  The threat of making an OSHA complaint or inviting OSHA into the workplace to conduct an inspection can put pressure on an employer to stand-down against a union’s organizing efforts, even if it does not believe a particular violative condition or safety hazard exists.  A safety complaint could spark an OSHA inspection and, with 75% of all OSHA inspections resulting in the issuance of at least one citation, the chances are high that the employer would have an OSHA enforcement action on its hands. Continue reading

“Masters of Disaster” Podcast re: Managing OSHA Compliance in the Trump Administration

In May 2017, Eric J. Conn sat down with Leona Lewis, Founder of ComplyEthic, to discuss the regulatory landscape at OSHA as we transition from Obama to Trump, and what employers should do to successfully navigate the new regulatory landscape, for a new segment on ComplyEthic’s terrific Podcast – “Masters of Disaster.”  Here is a link to the interview on the podcast.

Masters of DisasterThe Podcast segment was entitled “OSHA Regulation Under Trump Administration; What Companies Can Do,” and featured discussion about the differences in priority and approach between Obama’s and Trump’s OSHA, new regulatory strategies that may be available to employers, and what steps employers should take to prepare for and manage the new regulatory environment.

OSHA Interpretations and Variances: Regulatory Strategies Revived in a Trump Admin. [Webinar Recording]

On June 6, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Kate M. McMahon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding OSHA Interpretations and Variances: Regulatory Strategies Resurrected in a Trump Administration.

A new world order has taken hold in Washington, DC, and with it, we expect OSHA to be much more open to employers’ views about the regulatory landscape. Employers may now have an opportunity to obtain favorable OSHA interpretations of existing regulations, and historically rare Variances.

This webinar reviewed the regulatory strategies that had been effectively foreclosed during the Obama Administration, but which may now reemerge, allowing employers to craft practical solutions to regulatory burdens while continuing to keep workers safe.

Participants in this webinar learned about the following:

  • The process OSHA follows to develop and issue letters of interpretation of its regulations and how to influence that process
  • Strategies for advanced groundwork to maximize the likelihood of favorable regulatory interpretations
  • How and when to apply for and obtain regulatory variances
  • How to insulate your company from legal exposure when engaging with OSHA about regulatory interpretations and variances

Here is a link to a recording of the webinar. Continue reading

OSHA Indefinitely Delays E-Recordkeeping Data Submission Requirements

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

In the final year of the Obama Administration, OSHA published a controversial amendment to its Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Rule known as the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” RuleAs published last year, the new Final Rule significantly changed employers’ obligations under OSHA’s recordkeeping scheme.  Among other hotly contested provisions, the new rule would require employers, beginning July 1, 2017, to proactively submit their employee injury and illness recordkeeping data to OSHA, so that OSHA could publish the data for all the world to see.

In a dramatic, but not unexpected, move last week, OSHA suspended this controversial data submission requirement with no word on when – or whether – a new deadline would be set for the data submission.

Telltale signs that the new Administration was rethinking the data collection requirement, and especially the plan to publish data, were clear well before last week.  OSHA stated at the time the rule was published in May 2016 that it would develop a secure portal into which employers would submit the data, and that the portal would be live by February 2017, well in advance of the July 1st data submission deadline.  We understand the development of the database was completed, and learned that OSHA beta-tested the portal with the help of a few major national employers and employer organizations.

Nevertheless,  Winter and Spring came and went with no public sign of the secure data portal, or update from OSHA about how precisely the database would function or when it would go live.  Since we are so close to the July 1st submission deadline and still no database with which employers could begin to get familiar, it was not surprising that on May 17th, OSHA updated its website to officially announce a reprieve from the looming July 1st deadline, stating:

OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time, and intends to propose extending the July 1, 2017 date by which certain employers are required to submit the information from their completed 2016 Form 300A electronically. Updates will be posted to this webpage when they are available.

Our expectation is that the new Administration will Continue reading

Get the Record Straight: Latest on OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule [Webinar Recording]

On May 16, 2017, Amanda R. Strainis-Walker and Dan C. Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group, presented a webinar regarding OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule.”  Here is a link to a recording of the webinar.
OSHA’s controversial new Electronic Injury and Illness Recordkeeping data submission rule, along with its new Anti-Retaliation elements has thus far survived a barrage of negative stakeholder comments during the rulemaking, multiple enforcement deferrals, and a legal challenge complete with a preliminary injunction motions, and continuing legal challenges.  As of today, all elements of the rule are in effect, including limits on post-injury drug testing and safety incentive programs, and barring a change before July 1, 2017, thousands of employers will, for the first time, be required to submit injury and illness recordkeeping data to OSHA, possibly for publishing online.

Participants in this complimentary webinar learned about:

  • Requirements of OSHA’s Electronic Injury Recordkeeping data submission
  • The status of OSHA’s new database to receive injury data
  • OSHA’s policy on publishing the injury data received from employers
  • The Anti-Retaliation Elements of the E-Recordkeeping Rule
  • The status and future of this new Final Rule
  • The fate of “Volks” Recordkeeping Statute of Limitations Rule

This was the fifth webinar event in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2017 OSHA Webinar Series.  Plan to join us for the remaining complimentary monthly OSHA webinars.  Click here for the full schedule and program descriptions for the 2017 series, and/or to register for the entire 2017 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will get you registered.

If you missed any of our prior webinars in the 2017 or past years’ OSHA Webinar Series, here is a link Conn Maciel Carey’s Webinar Archive.

Finally We Have a Labor Secretary – Alexander Acosta

By Lindsay A. Disalvo

On Thursday, April 27, 2017, Alexander Acosta was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as the first Secretary of Labor in the Trump Administration.  As we reported in an earlier article when Acosta was first nominated by Pres. Trump, in this role, Sec. Acosta will oversee the federal department that develops and interprets labor regulations and investigates alleged violations of minimum wage, overtime, and workplace safety laws and regulations.

The Senate approved Acosta by a vote of 60-38, meaning there was some cross-party support, despite the party-line vote on Acosta’s nomination by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  This marks the fourth time Acosta has been confirmed by the Senate, including his prior positions in the Bush Administration.

Specifically, during the Bush Administration, Acosta served as a member of the National Labor Relations Board for approximately eight months.  In 2003, President Bush appointed him to Head the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice’s , a position which he held for about two years, before being appointed to serve as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.  Most recently, Acosta was the Dean of Florida International University’s School of Law.

At this point, it is still uncertain what jurisprudence Acosta will bring to the role of Secretary of Labor.  The Trump Administration and its initial Secretary of Labor nominee, Andrew Puzder, who withdrew from consideration back in February, have taken aggressive stands on deregulationHowever, Acosta’s positions on regulation and enforcement have not been as clearly expressed, and his prior experience as a prosecutor may suggest a more measured approach in managing the enforcement responsibilities of the various agencies under his direction.  We will have a better idea of Acosta’s approach soon, however, because there are a number of time sensitive issues that will need his prompt attention upon being sworn in.

In particular, we expect that one immediate priority for Acosta will be Continue reading

New Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Understand [Webinar Recording]

On April 11th, Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding “New Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Understand.” 

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, is perhaps the most aggressive and enforcement-heavy approved state OSH Program in the nation.  California employers face a host of requirements that other employers around the country do not.  Likewise, the Cal/OSHA inspection and appeal process creates several unique landmines for California employers.

In light of new Cal/OSHA standards taking effect in 2017 and others on the horizon, this is the perfect time for companies doing business in the Golden State to revamp their safety programs and take necessary steps to ensure compliance with the latest Cal/OSHA safety regulations.

Participants in this complimentary webinar learned about the following:

  • Cal/OSHA’s New Repeat Violation Rule
  • Cal/OSHA’s New Workplace Violence Rule for Health Care Facilities
  • New Law Mandating the Development of Heat Illness Prevention Regulations for Indoor Workplaces
  • Changes to Cal/OSHA Penalties on the Horizon
  • Other Industry Specific Developments

Here is a link to the recording of the webinar. Continue reading

Cal/OSHA’s Workplace Violence Rules for Health Care Take Effect April 2017

By Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn

Effective April 1, 2017, a new California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Standards Board”) regulation at Title 8, Section 3342 requires certain employers in the health care industry to develop and implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.  The passage of these regulations came after nearly two years of meeting and work within the Agency, and more than two years after the California legislature passed Senate Bill 1299, which instructed the Standards Board to implement these workplace violence regulations.

Rules Apply to Health Care Facilities

Senate Bill 1299 only directed the Standards Board to adopt regulations requiring licensed hospitals to adopt violence prevention plans to protect health care workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior.  The regulations that were adopted by the Standards Board, however, apply not just to licensed hospitals, but more broadly to any “health facility,” defined as:

“any facility, place or building that is organized, maintained, and operated for diagnosis, care, prevention or treatment of human illness, physical or mental…to which [] persons are admitted for a 24-hour stay or longer.”

Additionally, the regulations apply to the following facilities regardless of their size or how long a patient stays there:

  1. Home health care and home-based hospice;
  2. Emergency medical services and medical transport, including services provided by firefighters and other emergency responders;
  3. Drug treatment programs;
  4. Outpatient medical services to the incarcerated in correctional and detention settings.

Immediate Requirement to Begin Reporting Violent Incidents

Beginning April 1, 2017, every general acute care hospital, acute psychiatric hospital and special hospital generally must report to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) any incident involving Continue reading

OSHA’s old “Standards Improvement Project” and Trump’s new Efforts to Slash Regulations [Webinar Recording]

On March 28, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding OSHA’s old “Standards Improvement Project” and Pres. Trump’s new Executive Orders to Slash Regulations.

OSHA initiated a “Standards Improvement Project” (SIP) under the Clinton Admin. to make non-controversial changes to confusing, outdated or duplicative OSHA standards.  There have been a series of SIP rulemakings since, culminating in SIP Phase IV, published by Obama’s OSHA late in 2016, which proposes numerous revisions to existing standards, including a change to OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) standard that is hardly non-controversial.  Specifically, OSHA is attempting to use SIP to undo a judicial interpretation of “unexpected energization” that OSHA does not support; reading “unexpected” right out of the standard.

What Trump’s OSHA does with the LOTO proposal specifically is a mystery, but what is more important is Trump’s recent actions to address the “regulatory state,” which appear to put SIP on steroids.  Trump has long stated that over-regulation is hampering America’s economic growth, and plans for decreasing regulations have been a high priority in his 100-day action plan.  Trump and Congressional Republicans have made heavy use of the obscure “Congressional Review Act” to permanently repeal numerous Obama-era regulations.  The President has also signed a “2-for-1” Executive Order that requires federal agencies to cut two existing regulations for every new regulation they implement, and another Executive Order directing federal agencies to create “regulatory reform” Task Forces to evaluate federal rules and recommend whether to keep, repeal or change them.  Trump intends for these task forces to reduce what it deems expensive or unnecessary rules.  OSHA rules may be on the chopping block.

Participants in this webinar learned about:

  • The origins and intent of the Standards Improvement Project
  • A controversial proposal to remove “unexpected energization” from OSHA’s LOTO Standard
  • Use of the Congressional Review Act to repeal numerous Obama-era regulations
  • Pres. Trump’s executive orders designed to slash regulations
  • Other steps by the Trump Admin. to “Dismantle the Regulatory State”

Here is a link to a recording of the webinarContinue reading

Trump Proposes $2.5B Cut to Dept. of Labor’s Budget and Elimination of Chemical Safety Board

By Kara M. Maciel and Eric J. Conn

The Trump Administration submitted a blueprint budget for 2018 to Congress proposing $2.5 Billion in cuts to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) operating budget.  The President’s proposed budget expressly calls for reduced funding for grant programs, job training programs for seniors and disadvantaged youth, and support for international labor efforts.  It also proposes to entirely defund and eliminate the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (“CSB”) – an independent, federal, non-enforcement agency that investigates chemical accidents at fixed facilities.  The budget plan also purports to shift more funding responsibility to the states with labor related programs.  Finally, although less explicit, the budget blueprint appears to deliver on promises from Trump’s campaign trail that rulemaking and regulatory enforcement efforts under the myriad laws and regulations enforced by the sub-agencies, such as the Wage and Hour Division and OSHA would be slashed.

These proposed budget cuts at DOL and other agencies are all part of a plan to offset the White House’s intent to increase defense and security spending by $54 billion.  Overall, Trump requested $1.065 Trillion in total discretionary spending, with $603 billion going to Defense.

The proposal would shrink DOL’s budget to $9.6 Billion – down 21% from the $12.2 Billion budget for 2017. Trump’s planned reductions announced on March 16, 2017 – while not really surprising in the context of his view toward federal spending on non-defense agencies – would have a seismic impact on DOL’s ability to carry out both policy initiatives under former President Obama as well as many of the Department’s longstanding programs.

The business community welcomes Trump’s effort to rein in what has been viewed as an intrusive, enforcement-heavy Labor Department, but we caution not to count chickens yet. These proposed cuts will undergo heavy scrutiny by Congress before any budget is finalized. The President’s spending plan is only the first step in months of negotiations between the White House and both houses (and parties) in Congress. Pres. Trump will put forward a more detailed spending proposal in May, and various legislative committees will scrutinize his requests, calling on Cabinet Secretaries, Agency Heads, and others in the Administration to testify about or otherwise explain their spending needs and requests.

Key Takeaways from Trump’s Budget Blueprint

While the administration provided estimates for some of the proposed cuts, it did not specify where the majority of the budget cuts would come from.  What we do know is that the proposed budget would Continue reading

“OSHA’s Midnight Attempt to Overrule Federal Court’s Decision Is Ripe for Rescission” – WLF Article

Washington Legal Foundation just published Eric J. Conn’s “Legal Opinion Letter” article regarding OSHA’s new “Volks Rule” attempting to circumvent the D.C. Circuit ruling limiting OSHA’s statute of limitations for injury and illness recordkeeping violations from 5½ years to six months.

Below is a summary of the article with an update about Congressional action scrutinizing the Rule, and here is a link to the full article.wlf-volks-article

In the waning days of the Obama Administration, OSHA promulgated a new rule purportedly “clarifying” employers’ continuing duty to correct injury and illness recordkeeping logs for the entire five-year period the logs must be kept. See 81 Fed. Reg. 91,792 (Dec. 19, 2016). The final rule, dubbed the “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness,” amended OSHA’s existing recordkeeping regulations in order to circumvent a 2012 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor (Volks II), 675 F.3d 752 (DC Cir. 2012). This “clarifying” rule is unlawful and should be repudiated.

OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping regulations require employers to record certain injuries and illnesses within seven days of the incident and also to preserve a copy of those records for five years. 29 C.F.R. Part 1904 et seq. Separately, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) authorizes the Secretary of Labor to issue citations alleging violations of regulations adopted under the Act. 29 U.S.C. §§ 651-678. The statute of limitations in the OSH Act states, however, that “[n]o citation may be issued under this section after the expiration of six months following the occurrence of any violation.” 29 U.S.C. § 658(c).

The article provides a historical look at how OSHA interpreted and enforced its injury and illness recordkeeping regulations Continue reading

Pres. Trump’s Plan B for Secretary of Labor Nominee – Alex Acosta

By Jordan B. Schwartz

President Trump originally chose Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE Holdings, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, as his nominee for Secretary of Labor.Department of Labor  However, on February 15, 2017, one day prior to his much-delayed confirmation hearing, Mr. Puzder withdrew his name from consideration amidst reports that he would not receive the required Senate votes necessary for confirmation.  Mr. Puzder’s nomination was knocked off track by allegations that he failed to pay workers overtime pay, hired an undocumented worker in his home, condoned sexual harassment, and opposed legislative efforts to address those problems.  The next day, President Trump officially tapped former U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta for the position.

If confirmed as Labor Secretary, Mr. Acosta will oversee the federal apparatus that investigates violations of minimum wage, overtime and workplace safety laws and regulations.  Mr. Acosta would also be the first Hispanic member of President Trump’s cabinet.

Mr. Acosta has a strong public service background.  After graduating from Harvard Law School, he clerked for Judge (now Supreme Court Justice) Samuel Alito on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  He has also served as a member of the National Labor Relations Board, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division (both of which he was appointed to by President George W. Bush), and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.  Most recently, Mr. Acosta served as

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Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch Sides with Businesses on Labor and OSHA Issues

On February 1, 2017, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, Colorado, to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016.  Indeed, since February 2016, the High Court has functioned with only eight members; four liberal Justices and four conservative Justices.  gorsuch-imageTherefore, the confirmation of a ninth Justice to fill the vacant position, and establish a majority conservative bench, is likely to have a substantial impact on the outcome of controversial issues brought before the Court.

Gorsuch was appointed to the Tenth Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2006.  Although he is considered a firm conservative, as was expected given President Trump’s public stance to fill the vacancy with a judge who embodies Scalia’s principles, he has garnered praise from both liberals and conservatives for his work as an appellate judge due to his reputation for conveying his ideas fluently and courteously.

A number of Democrats have already conveyed their opposition to Gorsuch’s nomination, which could prove problematic as he will need to win over some Democratic senators to get the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.However, setting the political climate aside, when Judge Gorsuch was appointed to the Tenth Circuit in 2006, he was confirmed by the Senatewithout objection.  Only time will tell if Judge Gorsuch will acquire enough support from Senate Democrats to overcome a filibuster given the immediate public opposition from Democrats following Gorsuch’s nomination, and whether he will be approved in time to hear oral arguments later this spring.  Judge Gorsuch’s opinions on labor and employment topics suggest that he favors businesses, and his decisions reflect a distaste for overreaching agency action which could result in some limiting decisions if he is ultimately confirmed.

Who is Judge Gorsuch?

Prior to being appointed to the Tenth Circuit, Judge Gorsuch amassed an impressive resume.  He received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University in New York City in 1988 and his law degree from Harvard Law School, with honors, in 1991 where he was the editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy and classmates with former President Obama. Judge Gorsuch also earned a doctorate of legal philosophy from Oxford University in 2004, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar.  Judge Gorsuch began his law career as a

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One of Obama OSHA’s Last Acts – An Update to the Walking-Working Surfaces Rule Decades In the Making

Kate M. McMahon and Eric J. Conn

On January 17, 2017, OSHA’s new Walking-Working Surfaces Rule took effect, updating OSHA regulations that have been in place for nearly a half century.  OSHA’s new rule, commonly referred to as the “Slips, Trips and Falls” rule, actually revises and updates two historic OSHA standards — the Walking-Working Surfaces regulations at Subpart D and the Personal Fall Protection regulations at Subpart I of OSHA’s General Industry Standards (29 C.F.R. Part 1910).wws-final-rule  Begun in 1990, it took OSHA all of 27-years – longer than it takes the Agency to promulgate its comprehensive health standards, which is saying quite a bit.  But just shy of two months to the end of the Obama Administration, the rule was promulgated, and became effective and enforceable three days prior to the Inauguration of Pres. Donald Trump.

While the new rule may fall prey to to efforts by the Trump Administration to stay and roll back those rules promulgated in the 11th hour by the Obama Administration — of which this certainly is one — it seems to have avoided the full scale assault by industry legal challenges typical of new OSHA rules.  The period to file legal challenges to the rule ended two weeks ago, and a survey of court filings indicates that only two parties have filed challenges to the rule, and these challenges are narrowly focused on a few discreet provisions of the rule, relating to the 300-foot limit on the use of rope descents and the restrictions on chimney sweeps who climb carrying their hook ladders.  Thus, even if these challenges are upheld, the bulk of OSHA’s revised Walking Working Surfaces rule will remain secure and in place.

Significant Provisions of the New Standard

It is not surprising that the new rule by and large escaped industry legal challenge.  For the most part, it incorporates existing advances in technology and current national consensus standards and/or industry best practices already in place in a wide swath of impacted industries into the regulatory structure.  Further, in particular in the area of personal fall protection, the new rule adds flexibility to the old requirements by expanding allowable methods for compliance.  For instance, the new rule allows employers to rely on fall protection systems rather than relying exclusively on guardrails and physical barriers in many situations.

However, the new rule does impose some new requirements it is important to be aware of and understand.  Continue reading