Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee Offers Updates on Enforcement, Rulemaking and More

By Megan Shaked

The Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee holds meetings throughout the year to provide information regarding its programs and activities.  At the most recent meeting, held on November 10, 2022, the public heard updates from DOSH, the Standards Board, and the Appeals Board.

Here are some highlights from the meeting.  A full video and audio recording of the meeting is available here.

Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip noted his goal to try to shift the Advisory Committee meetings to balance providing meaningful data with discussion for a collaborative approach to workplace safety and health.  He also shared:

    • Cal/OSHA is hiring to fill vacancies.
    • Cal/OSHA’s heat/wildfire smoke campaigns included: 250 high heat targeted inspections this season; 299 consultations; 8 bi-weekly calls with Heat & Agriculture Coordination Program; an update to the Heat Special Emphasis Program to address Indoor Heat Hazards; an expansion of the DIR/DOSH Multimedia Heat Illness Prevention media campaign to include indoor heat; bilingual community engagement liaisons and bilingual trainers meeting with community based organizations, advocacy groups and others.
    • California had 245 events around 2022 Safe & Sound Campaign in collaboration with Washington and Oregon (week of August 15-21)
    • Cal/OSHA also participated in 2 agricultural worker events, a 4-day health symposium, and a 2-day conference for consultation.

Cal/OSHA Deputy Chief of Health and Research and Standards, Eric Berg, provided an update on the status of rulemaking: Continue reading

[Bonus Webinar] Michigan OSHA Enforcement and Regulatory Update

On Wednesday, November 30, 2022, at 1 p.m. EST, join us for a special bonus webinar in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 OSHA Webinar Series regarding a Michigan OSHA Enforcement and Regulatory Update.

Presented by
Anthony M. Casaletta and Eric J. Conn

We are pleased to announce that CMC’s newest addition, Tony Casaletta, a former Michigan OSHA (MIOSHA) Official who has just joined the firm as Of Counsel, will be leading our very first MIOSHA update. Prior to joining the firm, Tony spent 18 years with MIOSHA in various roles, working his way up to Health Supervisor for the MIOSHA Construction Safety and Health Division.  Through his tenure at MIOSHA, Tony specialized in industrial hygiene enforcement in both general industry and construction, managed the MIOSHA Asbestos Program, and oversaw the enforcement activities of MIOSHA’s Construction field industrial hygienists throughout the state of Michigan. In addition, Tony worked as an adjunct professor at Wayne State University where he taught in the University’s Industrial Hygiene graduate program.

Tony will be joined by the firm’s OSHA Chair, Eric J. Conn, also a proud member of the Michigan Bar. The two OSHA-specialist attorneys will provide an overview of MIOSHA’s enforcement program, the latest data and trends in MIOSHA enforcement, and other MIOSHA issues for employers to monitor.

During this webinar, participants will learn about: Continue reading

Conn Maciel Carey Adds the Former Top Workplace Safety and Employment Attorney for North Carolina

Conn Maciel Carey LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based boutique law firm with a national focus on OSHA/MSHA • Workplace Safety and Labor • Employment, is pleased to announce that Victoria Voight is now with the firm as an Of Counsel attorney in both the firm’s OSHA and Employment law practices.

Over four decades, Ms. Voight served the State of North Carolina in the Attorney General’s Office, ultimately as the Head of the Labor Section for eighteen years. In that role, Ms. Voight supervised all legal services provided to the North Carolina Department of Labor, principally in the areas of occupational safety and health (for North Carolina OSHA), wage and hour, retaliation, and employment discrimination. With that background, Ms. Voight brings to private practice a unique perspective, unparalleled experience, and key relationships with officials in North Carolina state government.

Ms. Voight is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she now provides the full range of workplace safety and health regulatory and employment law services for employers in North Carolina and around the country. She advises clients in relation to inspections, investigations and enforcement actions involving the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and State OSH Plans, particularly NCOSHA. She also counsels employers in all aspects of the employer-employee relationship, including wage and hour disputes and claims of employment discrimination and retaliation.

“From the other side of the table, I was always impressed with the attorneys at Conn Maciel Carey when they were advocating for employers in disputes with NCOSHA. They brought credibility, creativity, and a safety-focused approach to every case we had opposite each other, and that was so refreshing and effective for their clients.” said Ms. Voight. She added, Continue reading

Biden Administration Signals that the Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate May Go Into Effect, But Not Yet

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

On Friday, October 14th, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force) issued some “clarifications” about the expected next steps for Executive Order 14042 – the federal contractor vaccine mandate – now that the longstanding nationwide injunction restricting enforcement of the E.O. has been narrowed by order of the Eleventh Circuit.  That narrowing (to just the six States that were named parties to the legal challenge in Georgia v. Biden) took effect on October 18th.  OMB and the Task Force suggested that we would see at least three new guidance documents now that the injunction is narrowed, including:

    1. OMB would give notice to federal agencies about compliance with applicable injunctions, and also whether, where and when the new clause implementing Executive Order 14042 should be included in new solicitations and contracts.
    2. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force would update its COVID-19 guidance for covered contractor workplaces, including a timeline for implementation.  Last week’s clarification specified that this “updated guidance [by the Task Force] will be issued following development and review by the Task Force, subject to the OMB Director’s approval and determination published in the Federal Register that the updated guidance promotes economy and efficiency in Federal contracting, in accordance with Executive Order 14042.”
    3. After the updated Task Force guidance issues, and if the OMB Director makes a determination that implementation of the E.O. in some form continues to promote economy and efficiency in federal contracting , then OMB would provide additional guidance to agencies on timing and considerations for provision of written notice from agencies to contractors regarding enforcement.

On October 19th (the day after the 11th Circuit’s narrowing of the nationwide injunction took effect), OMB did issue one of the notices we were expecting. Continue reading

[CMC Spotlight Series] Meet Trevor Thompson!

In honor of National Paralegal Day this week, we are proud to feature one of our stellar paralegals for today’s CMC Spotlight Series — Trevor Thompson!  Trevor is a Cal/OSHA Paralegal in Conn Maciel Carey’s San Francisco office.  He has more than a decade of experience in the legal field and supports the attorneys in the OSHA • Workplace Safety Group as well as the Labor • Employment, and Litigation groups.

Trevor is particularly skilled in the organization and analysis of legal documentation. Prior to joining the firm, he was a Legal Document Specialist providing legal, trial and administrative support for several national law firms.

Get to Know Trevor!

Continue reading

Governor Newsom to End COVID-19 State of Emergency, While Standards Board Marches On

In major news yesterday, Governor Newsom announced that California’s COVID-19 State of Emergency will end on February 28, 2023.  See the following excerpts from the governor’s press release:

  • Capture“With hospitalizations and deaths dramatically reduced due to the state’s vaccination and public health efforts, California has the tools needed to continue fighting COVID-19 when the State of Emergency terminates at the end of February, including vaccines and boosters, testing, treatments and other mitigation measures like masking and indoor ventilation. As the State of Emergency is phased out, the SMARTER Plan continues to guide California’s strategy to best protect people from COVID-19.”
  • “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been guided by the science and data – moving quickly and strategically to save lives. The State of Emergency was an effective and necessary tool that we utilized to protect our state, and we wouldn’t have gotten to this point without it,” said Governor Newsom. “With the operational preparedness that we’ve built up and the measures that we’ll continue to employ moving forward, California is ready to phase out this tool.”
  • “To maintain California’s COVID-19 laboratory testing and therapeutics treatment capacity, the Newsom Administration will be seeking two statutory changes immediately upon the Legislature’s return: 1) The continued ability of nurses to dispense COVID-19 therapeutics; and 2) The continued ability of laboratory workers to solely process COVID-19 tests.”

In contrast to Governor Newsom’s announcement, however, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board continues to advance a  proposed non-emergency COVID-19 rule, with a two-year fixed term extending well beyond the end of the State of Emergency. Just last Friday, the Standards Board issued a revised draft of the non-emergency rule providing a 15-day notice period for comments. The revised non-emergency rule provides the following substantive changes: Continue reading

Preventing and Responding to Workplace Violence [Webinar Recording]

On Tuesday, October 11, 2022, Kara M. MacielLindsay A. DiSalvo, and special guest Terri D. Patterson, Ph.D., a Principal at Control Risks and threat management expert with over two decades of experience, presented a webinar on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Violence.

In 2020, physical assault was identified as the 4th leading cause of workplace deaths. Nearly 2 million American workers experience violent acts at work annually. As the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be entering the endemic phase and workers begin to transition back into the workplace, experts predict even more of an increase in workplace violence. Thus, employers will want to be prepared to prevent these types of incidents and protect their employees to the extent possible, as well as ensure they are doing all that’s required from a regulatory standpoint.

Workplace violence has been a focus for both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) well before the pandemic and remains so now. While OSHA has no specific standard for workplace violence, the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized serious hazards, and OSHA has instituted enforcement actions under its General Duty Clause after incidents of workplace violence. OSHA has also initiated a rulemaking to address workplace violence in specific industries. For its part, the EEOC has also prioritized ways to effectively prevent and address workplace violence, particularly in the form of workplace harassment. And outside of OSHA and the EEOC, employers can also be held liable for workplace violence through other claims such as negligent hiring and supervision.

In this webinar, attendees learned: Continue reading

[Webinar] Preventing and Responding to Workplace Violence

On Tuesday, October 11, 2022 at 1 p.m. EST, Kara M. Maciel, Lindsay A. DiSalvo, and special guest Terri D. Patterson, Ph.D., a Principal at Control Risks and threat management expert with over two decades of experience, will present a webinar on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Violence.

In 2020, physical assault was identified as the 4th leading cause of workplace deaths. Nearly 2 million American workers experience violent acts at work annually. As the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be entering the endemic phase and workers begin to transition back into the workplace, experts predict even more of an increase in workplace violence. Thus, employers will want to be prepared to prevent these types of incidents and protect their employees to the extent possible, as well as ensure they are doing all that’s required from a regulatory standpoint.

Workplace violence has been a focus for both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) well before the pandemic and remains so now. While OSHA has no specific standard for workplace violence, the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause requires employers to Continue reading

Conn Maciel Carey LLP Expands Midwest Workplace Safety Practice With Addition of OSHA Defense Attorney Anthony Casaletta – a Former Michigan OSHA Official

Detroit, MI (September 29, 2022) – Conn Maciel Carey LLP, a Washington, D.C.-based boutique law firm with a national focus on OSHA/MSHA • Workplace Safety and Labor & Employment, is pleased to announce that Anthony Casaletta has become an Of Counsel attorney with the firm.

Mr. Casaletta, an OSHA defense attorney, is based in the Detroit area in Michigan, where he counsels and defends employers in a wide range of workplace health and safety matters conducted by Federal OSHA and State OSH Plans, including particularly, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“MIOSHA”). He also supports employers in all aspects of OSHA and MIOSHA enforcement, from managing on-site inspections and investigations, to litigating contested citations through ALJ hearings and appeals, and counseling on compliance with OSHA rules and standards.

“I am thrilled to have this opportunity to join Conn Maciel Carey’s deep bench of talented attorneys,” said Mr. Casaletta. “I was drawn to the firm by their stellar reputation as go-to legal advisors for OSHA workplace safety matters. I look forward to collaborating with the team on industrial hygiene, safety, and all manner of OSHA regulatory matters.”

Prior to entering private practice as an OSHA defense attorney, Mr. Casaletta spent 18 years with Michigan OSHA (“MIOSHA”) in various roles, Continue reading

Process Safety Update: The Latest on EPA’s RMP and OSHA’s PSM Rulemakings

By Eric J. Conn, Micah Smith, and Beeta Lashkari

EPA RMP Public Hearing

This week, on September 26-28, 2022, EPA has been hosting virtual public hearings related to its Risk Management Program (RMP) rulemaking.  Specifically, the hearings are addressing the RMP Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention (SCCAP) proposed rule, which was signed by EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan on August 18, 2022, and proposes revisions to the RMP Rule to further protect vulnerable communities from chemical accidents, especially those living near facilities with high accident rates.  Per the EPA, “The proposed rule would strengthen the existing program and includes new safeguards that have not been addressed in prior RMP rules.”

The virtual public hearings will provide the opportunity to present information, comments or views pertaining to the SCCAP proposed rule.  In addition, EPA is accepting written comments during the public comment period, which closes on October 31, 2022.

For background, the RMP Rule has had a long and tortured rulemaking and litigation history.  EPA amended the RMP Rule on January 13, 2017, in the final days of the Obama Administration, following President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) 13650, “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security,” which directed EPA and other federal agencies to modernize policies, regulations, and standards to enhance safety and security in chemical facilities.  More details on the EO in the “OSHA PSM Stakeholder Meeting” section below.

EPA then received three petitions for reconsideration of the 2017 rule, and in December 2019, EPA issued a final rule reconsidering the changes made in January 2017.  There are petitions for judicial review of both the 2017 amendments and the 2019 reconsideration rules.  Specifically, the 2019 reconsideration rule challenges are being held in abeyance until October 3, 2022, by which time the parties must submit motions to govern, and the case against the 2017 amendments rule is in abeyance pending resolution of the 2019 reconsideration rule case.

So far as the SCCAP proposed rule is concerned, EPA issued a Continue reading

OSHA’s Recordkeeping, Reporting, and E-Recordkeeping Rules [Webinar Recording]

On September 13, 2022, Lindsay A. DiSalvo and Ashley D. Mitchell presented a webinar regarding Important Nuances of OSHA’s Recordkeeping, Reporting, and E-Recordkeeping Rules.

Although OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting rules may seem clear on their face, there are many nuances in the applicable standards that can create challenges to accurately making and maintaining those required records and reports. And the accuracy of injury and illness records could be becoming even more essential in light of the changes OSHA has proposed to the current e-recordkeeping rule, which would increase the availability and use of injury and illness data.

Already, e-recordkeeping data is collected by OSHA and used in developing and executing its Site-Specific Targeting (“SST”) Program based on an employer’s 300A Summary. Per the changes proposed in the current rulemaking effort, OSHA intends to expand who is required to submit recordkeeping data, what data is collected, and what data is shared with the public. This would result in more employers’ injury and illness data being under the microscope and incorporated into OSHA’s enforcement efforts. Indeed, as COVID-19 recordkeeping continues to drive up DART rates for a number of employers due to the need for COVID-19 positive employees to isolate, more may be pulled in OSHA’s SST Program. Thus, it is important for employers to understand the changes possibly to come in e-recordkeeping, as well as what those changes could mean in the context of evaluating and recording/reporting injuries and illnesses.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Issues Guidance to Clarify its Accidental Release Reporting Rule

By Beeta Lashkari, Eric J. Conn, and Micah Smith

Earlier this month, on September 1, 2022, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) announced the release of a new guidance document about the agency’s still-relatively new Accidental Release Reporting Rule.  The Accidental Release Reporting Rule, which went into effect in March 2020, requires owners and operators of stationary sources to report accidental releases that result in a fatality, a serious injury, or substantial property damage to the CSB within eight hours. Just a few months ago, the CSB published its first list of incidents that had been reported to the agency pursuant to the rule.

Of the new guidance document, CSB Interim Executive Steve Owens said:

“Our goal is to make sure that owners and operators report chemical releases to the CSB as required by law. While many companies already have been complying with the rule and submitting their required reports, this guidance should help resolve any uncertainties about the reporting requirement. If someone is unsure about what to do, they should report, rather than risk violating the rule.”

The new guidance has been a long time coming. Indeed, the agency Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Moves Closer to Issuing Its COVID-19 Non-Emergency Standard

By Andrew Sommer and Megan Shaked

In July 2022, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) revealed a proposed Permanent COVID-19 regulation. The draft permanent rule is intended to replace the current version of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that is set to expire at the end of 2022.  Here is a link to the agency’s draft regulatory text for the permanent rule.

On July 29, 2022, the Standards Board issued a rulemaking notice that set both the date for a meeting of the Standards Board when the proposed COVID-19 permanent rule would be debated and discussed, as well as an official due date for written comments from interested stakeholder.  Both of those were yesterday, September 15, 2022.  A vote on a proposed final rule is expected in late November or December, with the rule replacing the ETS and going into effect on January 1, 2023 and continuing through December 2024.

Background about the Proposed Permanent Rule

The proposed non-emergency rule (commonly referred to as the permanent rule) would apply until 2 years after effective date, with recordkeeping requirements applying until 3 years after effective date.  The most significant expansion in the proposal is the incorporation of the controversial new definition of “close contact” from the California Department of Public Health, which now means Continue reading

OSHA Updates Its Severe Violator Enforcement Program to Sweep In Exponentially More Employers

By Eric J. Conn and Ashley D. Mitchell

On September 15, 2022, OSHA announced a significant set of updates to its dreaded Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”), the first update to the program in over a decade. In a Press Release accompanying the update, Doug Parker, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, explained:

The Severe Violator Enforcement Program empowers OSHA to sharpen its focus on employers who – even after receiving citations for exposing workers to hazardous conditions and serious dangers – fail to mitigate these hazards . . . . Today’s expanded criteria reflect the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to ensuring OSHA has the tools it needs to ensure employers protect their workers or hold them accountable when they fail to provide safe and healthy workplaces.

Two of the three SVEP-qualifying criteria have not changed, and they are:

  1. Fatality/Catastrophe Criterion – A fatality/catastrophe inspection where OSHA finds at least one willful or repeated violation or issues a failure-to-abate notice based on a serious violation directly related either to an employee death or three or more employee hospitalizations.
  2. Egregious Criterion – All egregious enforcement actions (i.e., per-instance citations).

But historically, the principal way that employers “qualified” into SVEP was by enforcement actions that included 2+ willful or repeat violations related to a particular set of standards that represented “high emphasis hazards.” Indeed, that criteria has accounted for more than 70% of all SVEP-qualifying citations. Those “high emphasis hazards” essentially reflected the subjects of OSHA’s active enforcement National Emphasis Programs, including:

  • Fall Hazards in all industries
  • Amputation Hazards covered by Lockout/Tagout and Machine Guarding standards
  • Combustible Dust Hazards
  • Crystalline Silica Hazards
  • Lead Hazards
  • Grain Handling Hazards
  • Excavation/Trenching Hazards

The most important change in the updated SVEP is that Continue reading

[Webinar] OSHA’s Recordkeeping, Reporting, and E-Recordkeeping Rules

On Tuesday, September 13, 2022 at 1 p.m. EST, join Lindsay A. DiSalvo and Ashley D. Mitchell for a webinar regarding Important Nuances of OSHA’s Recordkeeping, Reporting, and E-Recordkeeping Rules.

Although OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting rules may seem clear on their face, there are many nuances in the applicable standards that can create challenges to accurately making and maintaining those required records and reports. And the accuracy of injury and illness records could be becoming even more essential in light of the changes OSHA has proposed to the current e-recordkeeping rule, which would increase the availability and use of injury and illness data.

Already, e-recordkeeping data is collected by OSHA and used in developing and executing its Site-Specific Targeting (“SST”) Program based on an employer’s 300A Summary. Per the changes proposed in the current rulemaking effort, OSHA intends to expand who is required to submit recordkeeping data, what data is collected, and what data is shared with the public. This would result in more employers’ injury and illness data being under the microscope and incorporated into OSHA’s enforcement efforts. Indeed, as COVID-19 recordkeeping continues to drive up DART rates for a number of employers due to the need for COVID-19 positive employees to isolate, more may be pulled in OSHA’s SST Program. Thus, it is important for employers to understand the changes possibly to come in e-recordkeeping, as well as what those changes could mean in the context of evaluating and recording/reporting injuries and illnesses.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

What Employers Need to Know About the Monkeypox Virus [Webinar Recording]

On September 6, 2022, Kara M. MacielEric J. Conn and Ashley D. Mitchell presented a webinar regarding What Employers Need to Know About the Monkeypox Virus.

On July 23rd, the World Health Organization declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By late July, the U.S. surpassed 10,000 total cases, and the Biden Administration declared it a public health emergency. While the Monkeypox Virus is less transmissible than COVID-19 and rarely fatal in its current form, there are still workplace safety and health considerations employers will have to address.

Participants in this webinar learned: Continue reading

[Webinar] What Employers Need to Know About the Monkeypox Virus

On Tuesday, September 6, 2022 at 1 p.m. EST, join Kara M. MacielEric J. Conn and Ashley D. Mitchell for a webinar regarding What Employers Need to Know About the Monkeypox Virus.

On July 23rd, the World Health Organization declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By late July, the U.S. surpassed 10,000 total cases, and the Biden Administration declared it a public health emergency. While the Monkeypox Virus is less transmissible than COVID-19 and rarely fatal in its current form, there are still workplace safety and health considerations employers will have to address.

Participants in this webinar will learn: Continue reading

New Twist in the Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine-Mandate Saga

By Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Task Force

In case anyone has forgotten, there are still a few COVID-19 vaccine mandates out there that the Supreme Court has not struck down.  There are the federal employee and military vaccine mandates, and for private employers, the federal contractor vaccine-mandate.  The federal contractor mandate arose from Pres. Biden’s Executive Order 14042, which directed executive agencies to include a clause in procurement agreements requiring employees who work on or in connection with a covered federal contract, or who even share a workplace with another employee who does, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  

You may have forgotten about that federal contractor vaccine mandate because that requirement has been the subject of nationwide temporary injunction for the last nine months, following a decision in December 2021 by a federal district court judge in Georgie in a legal challenge captioned Georgia v. Biden, one of several legal challenges to the Biden Administration’s authority to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine through the 1949 Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (aka the Procurement Act).  The district court judge in Georgia v. Biden entered a nationwide preliminary injunction after concluding that the plaintiff States and one trade association were likely to prevail on their assertion that the mandate was outside the scope of the Procurement Act. The judge ordered the federal government not to enforce the mandate in any covered agreement, and several other federal courts have also imposed other, though narrower, restrictions on EO 14042.  Since then, the Administration has shelved the vaccine requirement for federal contractors. 

A lot of water has also passed under the bridge since that time, and the COVID-19 landscape has changed pretty significantly.  Most notably, the CDC recently updated its COVID-19 guidance in several ways, but most relevant to the federal contractor vaccine mandate, the CDC now no longer distinguishes between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals for how COVID-19 controls should apply.  For example, quarantine and isolation requirements are perfectly aligned for fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and completely unvaccinated individuals.  The rationale for the new relaxed guidance from Pres. Biden’s CDC is that there are now “so many tools available to use for reducing COVID-19 severity, [so] there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.”  That rationale would seemingly undermine the original purpose of the federal contractor vaccine mandate – ensuring “economy and efficiency” of the federal procurement system by ensuring the health of the contracting workforce.

Nevertheless, the Administration has continued to defend the federal contractor vaccine mandate as the legal challenges to EO 14042 have moved through the court system.  The latest development in that litigation came in yet another Friday night COVID-19 surprise, Continue reading

What Employers Need To Know About the Latest Public Health Crisis – The Monkeypox Virus

By Eric J. Conn and Ashley D. Mitchell

After the last couple of years living with COVID-19, we were desperately hoping that we would not have to be talking, thinking or writing about the Monkeypox Virus (“MPV”) as a workplace safety and health issue.  And while Monkeypox does NOT appear to be a COVID-19 redux, we have been getting enough questions from our clients that it now seems unavoidable that we have to dig into this.  Alas, here is our first take on Monkeypox – what is it, what are the symptoms and modes of transmission, how is it similar to and different from COVID-19, and what should employers be thinking about and doing in connection with this latest plague.

The Monkeypox Virus (MPV):

Monkeypox is a zoonotic diseases, which means it is caused by a virus that is passed between animals & people.  MPV was first detected in 1958 in a colony of research monkeys in Central and West Africa, and the first human case of Monkeypox was recorded in 1970.  The virus that causes Monkeypox is in the same family as the virus that causes smallpox, and they involve similar, but less severe symptoms in the case of MPV.

The current Monkeypox outbreak is unique in that prior to 2022, Monkeypox cases were extremely rare in the U.S., and cases in individuals outside of Africa, where the virus commonly occurs, were almost always linked to international travel.  In mid-May of this year, the first cases associated with the current outbreak were identified in the U.S., and it is clearly spreading now among non-travelers.  On July 23rd, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). By late July, the U.S. surpassed 10,000 total cases. Continue reading

CDC Updates Its COVID-19 Guidance – But Still No Word From OSHA

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Thankfully, it has been quite a while since there has been a material update to discuss on the COVID-19 front.  Except for those of you in the healthcare space, things continue to be pretty quiet at OSHA on that front, but as I am sure you all have seen, a week ago, on August 11th, the CDC updated some of its COVID-19 guidance in a way that probably affects many employers’ COVID-19 protocols. 

The CDC’s new guidance, entitled Summary of Guidance for Minimizing the Impact of COVID-19 on Individual Persons, Communities, and Health Care Systems, scales back prior onerous recommendations for COVID-19 prevention strategies based on an acknowledgement in the guidance document that:

“with so many tools available to use for reducing COVID-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.”

However, how the new guidance maps to workplaces is not a simple analysis.  As has been the case throughout the pandemic, trying to apply CDC’s guidance to general industry workplaces, when it is actually written for the general public or for specific sectors (most often public health agencies and healthcare) is not always intuitive, and often leads to conflicting and impossible outcomes.  Of course, that’s where OSHA is supposed to come in; i.e., to take CDC’s general guidance and explain for employers how it should apply in private industry workplaces.  But OSHA has not kept up with its duty in that regard.  Indeed, despite promises for more than five months that updated COVID-19 guidance was coming “soon,” OSHA has not chimed in about how it expects employers to map CDC’s general public guidance to the workplace since before the Delta variant struck.  So with that vacuum, here is our best take on the CDC’s updated guidance.

What Does CDC’s Updated COVID-19 Guidance Change?  Continue reading

A Deep Dive Into Periodic Lockout/Tagout Inspections [Webinar Recording]

On August 17, 2022, Aaron R. Gelb and special guest, Tabitha Thompson, presented a webinar regarding A Deep Dive Into Periodic Lockout/Tagout Inspections.

Year in and year out, OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout (Energy Control) standard is one of the most frequently cited standards. With the National Emphasis Program on Amputations continuing in 2022, employers are subject to inspections focusing on their LOTO programs and practices even if there are no serious injuries or complaints made about them. With increased scrutiny comes a greater risk of citations—particularly repeat violations—which can lead to employers being placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Despite being such an important standard, OSHA’s LOTO rule continues to be one of the least understood. This webinar took a deep dive into arguably one of the most confusing (not to mention, one of the most frequently cited) aspects of the LOTO rule – periodic inspections.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading

Local Emphasis Program for Food Manufacturers in Wisconsin

By Aaron R. Gelb and Darius Rohani-Shukla

Earlier this year, in April, OSHA launched a Local Emphasis Program (LEP) in Wisconsin focused on food manufacturers.  This LEP reflects the agency’s ongoing efforts to ramp up targeted enforcement efforts and follows Regional Emphasis Programs (REP) initiated in Region V last year focusing on exposure to noise hazards (June 2021) and transportation tank cleaning operations (August 2021), as well as the National Emphasis Program (NEP) on outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards which started in April 2022.  General industry employers in Region 5 still have to contend with the 2018 Powered Industrial Truck (PIT) Local Emphasis Program as well.  Meanwhile, we have been told to expect a similar LEP targeting Illinois food manufacturers, with the primary difference being the NAICS Codes on which that LEP will focus.  While we have not yet seen the Illinois LEP targeting food processing establishments, we expect both programs will involve an inspection and review of production operations and working conditions; injury and illness records; safety and health programs; and hazardous energy control methods to identify and correct workplace hazards at all applicable inspection sites.

Why Is OSHA Targeting the Food Manufacturing Industry?

After examining data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for Wisconsin employers with a primary North American Industry Classification (NAICS) code in the 311xxx range, OSHA determined that food manufacturing industry injuries occurred at higher rates than found in other sectors. In OSHA’s view, the data demonstrates higher rates of total reportable cases; cases involving days away from work, job restriction or transfers, fractures, amputations, cuts, lacerations, punctures, heat burns, chemical burns, and corrosions. As such, OSHA’s stated goal in launching this LEP is to encourage employers to identify, reduce, and eliminate hazards associated with exposure to machine hazards during production activities and off-shift sanitation, service, and maintenance tasks.

Which Employers Will Be Targeted? Continue reading

[Webinar] A Deep Dive Into Periodic Lockout/Tagout Inspections

On Wednesday, August 17, 2022 at 1 p.m. EST, join Aaron R. Gelb and Beeta B. Lashkari for a webinar regarding A Deep Dive Into Periodic Lockout/Tagout Inspections.

Year in and year out, OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout (Energy Control) standard is one of the most frequently cited standards. With the National Emphasis Program on Amputations continuing in 2022, employers are subject to inspections focusing on their LOTO programs and practices even if there are no serious injuries or complaints made about them. With increased scrutiny comes a greater risk of citations—particularly repeat violations—which can lead to employers being placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Despite being such an important standard, OSHA’s LOTO rule continues to be one of the least understood. This webinar will take a deep dive into arguably one of the most confusing (not to mention, one of the most frequently cited) aspects of the LOTO rule – periodic inspections.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

CMC Spotlight Series – Meet Ashley D. Mitchell!

As an Associate in Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s Chicago office, Ashley D. Mitchell supports both the OSHA and Labor and Employment practice groups. She represents and advises clients in employer-employee relationship issues, including wage and hour disputes, Title VII discrimination claims, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), workplace policies and procedures, harassment training, and employee handbooks.

In support of the OSHA • Workplace Safety Practice Group, Ashley represents employers during federal OSHA and State OSH Plan inspections and investigations. She also guides clients in responding to workplace safety complaints and litigates contests of OSHA citations.

Ashley brings valuable experience in employee-side employment litigation. Prior to joining the firm, she interned at the Chicago Park District’s Law Department as a Student Attorney. While at the Domestic Violence & Immigration Clinic, she guided clients through the U-Visa application process.

In 2018, Ashley received her J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. She also has a B.A. in Government, cum laude, from Georgetown University.

In her spare time, she volunteers by tutoring students preparing for the bar exam.

Get to Know Ashley!

Where is your favorite vacation spot?  

My favorite vacation spot is Cancún. It was my first international vacation and since then, I’ve been several times with family and friends. While I’ve been several times, I’ve never repeated an experience. You can relax, shop, ride an ATV, or explore the culture. Whatever you’re looking for, it’s there—adventure, rest, learning something new.

It’s also a chance for me to practice my Spanish. I often say that I’m proficient in Spanish, not fluent because I learned in academia, so I speak more like an academic than a native speaker. Vacations to Cancún are a great opportunity for me to practice. Keeping up my Spanish language skills is incredibly important to me. My ability to speak Spanish afforded me the opportunity to represent Spanish speaking clients in my law school’s domestic violence and immigration clinic and has proven invaluable in my current practice counseling employers who may have Spanish-speaking employees.

What was your first job?  

My first job was at Continue reading

Regional Emphasis Program for Warehousing Operations

On August 3, 2022, OSHA announced a new Regional Emphasis Program (“REP”) focused on warehousing and inside or outside storage and distribution yards in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia, including those located at federal agencies, and federal installations in Region III’s jurisdiction.  Covered employers in these states would be well-advised to dust off their copy of Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s OSHA Inspection Toolkit and take the necessary steps to ensure they are ready for the inspections that will begin before the end of the year.

Why Is OSHA Targeting Warehousing Operations?

In the REP and accompanying press release, OSHA explains it is seeking to reduce injury/illness rates in the warehousing industry by conducting comprehensive inspections to address hazards that may include those associated with powered industrial trucks, lockout tagout, life safety, means of egress, and fire suppression.  OSHA further explains in the REP that while the rate of total recordable case rate for all private industry was 2.7 cases per 100 full-time workers, the rates for the industries included in this REP were 3.5 for beverage manufacturing; 4.8 for warehousing and storage; 4.0 for food and beverage stores; 4.3 for grocery wholesalers; and 5.5 for beer, wine, and alcoholic beverage wholesalers.

The REP calls out the potentially serious hazards involved in Continue reading