On Monday, August 3rd at 1 PM ET, join Eric J. Conn (Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice), Susan Wilcox (a CIH and CSP with Safety Resource Associates), and special guest Jennifer Rose (VOSH Cooperative Programs Director with the Virginia Dept. of Labor and Industry) for a complimentary webinar regarding “Everything You Need to Know About Virginia OSHA’s New COVID-19 Standard.”
Last week, Virginia became the first state in the nation to promulgate a mandatory safety regulation designed to reduce COVID-19 infections in the workplace, when Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced the commonwealth’s adoption of an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”). The COVID-19 ETS, which was drafted by Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry, requires Virginia employers to: Continue reading →
On June 26, 2020, Oregon OSHA announced that in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA)/Public Health and other technical advisors, as well as affected stakeholders, it had begun to develop a pair of temporary COVID-19 workplace rules — one for healthcare and closely-related industries, and another for general workplaces. The target effective date for those temporary rules is September 1, 2020, with the rules to remain in effect through at least February 2021. In parallel, Oregon will also begin work on permanent rules addressing airborne infectious disease control through the state’s normal rulemaking process.
The technical advisory group meetings and external stakeholder meetings are already taking place and are expected to be completed over the next two weeks.
Even though the emergency temporary standards will not go through the typical, more formal rulemaking process, there are still opportunities for employers to influence:
the scope of the rules;
the substantive requirements of the rules; and/or
how their workplaces will be characterized (i.e., as healthcare or general industry).
Participation in the stakeholder meetings and the submission of comments could make
a significant impact on the nature of the burdens placed on Oregon employers through the remainder of the pandemic.
As previously discussed on the OSHA Defense Report blog, on April 10, 2020, Federal OSHA issued enforcement guidance for recording cases of COVID-19, relaxing recordkeeping enforcement for employers other than those in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions. Unfortunately, the guidance does not mandate that State Plan States follow suit, and not all states with approve OSH Programs have announced whether they will be following Fed OSHA’s guidance.
The state of Washington has not published any guidance on that issue one way or the other. But here is what we have learned from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (“DLI”) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“DOSH”).
As a threshold matter, as we know from Fed OSHA recordkeeping, among other requirements, for an injury or illness to be recordable, it must be “work-related.” The language of Washington DLI’s recordkeeping regulation regarding assessing work-relatedness mirrors the Fed OSHA regulation. They both state that an employer:
“must consider an injury or illness to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a preexisting injury or illness.”
Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures that occur in the work environment, unless an enumerated exception applies, and the work-relatedness exceptions for Fed OSHA and Washington are also the same.
There have been a number of significant developments related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – now officially called “COVID-19.” The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, President Trump initiated a National Emergency Order, and state and local officials have been ordering shutdowns of non-essential businesses and mandatory shelter-in-place orders. Furthermore, Congress passed emergency legislation that temporarily requires employers to provide paid sick and family leave and the Department of Labor has issued guidance on how employers should comply with employment and workplace safety laws.
Local craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries have been deemed essential businesses under current federal and state directives, such as the Virginia and Maryland governors March 23, 2020 orders, but the traditional way of doing business has changed considerably. These changes have raised numerous questions regarding how small businesses can successfully operate while complying with these new requirements.
a modified ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter (CNC) quantitative fit testing protocol for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators; and
a modified ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol for filtering facepiece respirators.
The rule became effective September 26, 2019.
Both new protocols are abbreviated variations of the original OSHA-approved ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol (often referred to as the PortaCount protocol), and differ from the test by the exercise sets, exercise duration, and sampling sequence. The protocols serve as alternatives to the four existing quantitative fit testing protocols already listed in the Mandatory Appendix A of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard:
After years awaiting the fate of OSHA’s controversial proposed change to write the term “unexpected energization” out of its Lockout/Tagout (“LOTO”) standard, OSHA just announced its new Final Rule of Phase IV of the Standards Improvement Project (“SIP”). The SIP process was designed to allow OSHA a simplified rulemaking path to make non-controversial changes to fix minor issues with existing standards. The SIP IV proposal included numerous minor adjustments to a variety of existing OSHA standards, but one seemingly major change to the LOTO standard. Specifically, the Obama Administration’s OSHA slipped into SIP IV a controversial proposal to revise the scope provision of the LOTO standard to remove the term “unexpected energization” as a prerequisite for the requirements of the LOTO standard to kick-in. After an outcry by the regulated community, this proposed change to the LOTO standard was removed from the Final Rule. However, OSHA signaled it will likely re-visit the issue again in a separate LOTO rulemaking.
History of Standards Improvement Project
OSHA initiated the “Standards Improvement Project” (SIP) during the Clinton Administration, and and there have been a series of four SIP rulemakings since. The Project was intended to allow OSHA to efficiently make non-controversial changes to confusing, outdated, or duplicative elements of OSHA standards and to to align standards across industries and make it easier for employers to understand and comply with safety and health regulations. Continue reading →
When fed OSHA promulgated the Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) in 2016, it built into the Rule a mandate that all State Plans adopt substantially identical requirements to the final E-Recordkeeping Rule within six months after its publication. However, because State Plans all have their own legislative or rulemaking processes, they cannot simply snap their fingers and instantly adopt a new Rule even if required to do so by fed OSHA. Also importantly, the State Plans, as well as all employers in the regulated community, were getting mixed signals about the future of the E-Recordkeeping Rule from fed OSHA under the new Trump Administration.
Accordingly, although most of the 20+ State Plans acted promptly to promulgate their own version of the E-Recordkeeping rule, leading up to the first injury data submission deadline last year, several State OSH Plans had not yet adopted their own version of an E-Recordkeeping Rule. Specifically, as of the end of 2017, these eight State Plans had not yet adopted (and some, like California, had not even started the process to adopt) an E-Recordkeeping Rule:
Washington (WA DLI, WISHA, or DOSH);
South Carolina (SC OSHA);
Wyoming (WY OSHA); and
Given the uncertainty of the fate of the E-Recordkeeping Rule after the transition to the Trump Administration and OSHA’s announcement that it would soon issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revisit the E-Recordkeeping Rule, each of these State Plans except for Vermont OSHA continued to delay adopting the Rule even as we approached the second data submission deadline of July 2018. And that is when fed OSHA started to speak up.
OSHA’s April 30, 2018 Press Release
On April 30, 2018, OSHA issued a press release announcing that employers in all State Plan States (not the State Plans themselves) must implement OHSA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule. In the press release, OSHA states that it had determined that:
Section 18(c)(7) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, and relevant OSHA regulations pertaining to State Plans, require all affected employers to submit injury and illness data in the ITA, “even if the employer is covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of their own state rule.”
State Plan State Responses
The remaining seven State Plan States provided conflicting responses to fed OSHA’s directive Continue reading →
Slips, trips and falls are among the leading causes of work-related injuries and fatalities in the U.S., and continue to pose problems for all employers. In November 2016, OSHA published its updated Walking / Working Surfaces (WWS) Standard, the regulation that governs slips, trips and fall hazards in general industry, after decades of attempts to amend the Rule. The Final Rule was intended to modernize and harmonize OSHA’s various regulations focused on fall hazards, based on advances in fall protection technologies and methods, and lessons learned over the decades.
Now, just over a year since the new WWS Rule has gone into effect, many questions remain for employers with respect to modifying workplace practices and physical installations, especially those related to fall protection, fixed ladders, and scaffolding.
The July 1, 2018 deadline for large employers (250+ employees at a single work site) and smaller employers (20-249 employees) in certain so-called “high hazard industries” to submit injury and illness data to OSHA is less than a week 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, it appears that this deadline for the second data submission under the rule 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 2017 OSHA 300A Annual Summary data) by this Sunday.
For a last-minute primer on the nuances of OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule, check out this blog article from Intelex, a compliance software development resource. Here is the opening excerpt from the article:
“Mandatory submission of injury and illness data to OSHA through a dedicated Web-based portal should, in theory, make the process quick and easy. However, a recent spate of real and proposed changes to the agency’s E-Recordkeeping Rule has left many employers wondering if they are required to submit injury and illness data for certain establishments, by when they must do it, and what the consequences are of not submitting the data.
The latest in Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s OSHA webinar series addressed these topics and provided some much-needed clarity for employers.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently issued an opinion granting OSHA the ultimate leeway to characterize citations as Repeat. The case involved a Repeat excavation-related OSHA citation issued to Triumph Construction Corp. in 2014. OSHA based the Repeat characterization on a prior violation of the same excavation standard confirmed against Triumph from 2009.
Triumph asserted to the OSHRC Administrative Law Judge and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the Repeat citation was not appropriate because the amount of time that had passed from the original 2009 citation to the new 2014 alleged violation (nearly five years) was outside OSHA’s stated Repeat look-back policy in its Field Operations Manual. The OSHA Field Operations Manual in effect in 2014 was the 2009 version, which provided for a three year look-back period to find prior violations to serve as the basis for a Repeat violation.
In a 2016 update to the Fields Operations Manual, the Obama Administration expanded the Repeat look-back period to five-years. Regardless what the FOM said, the Triumph case implicated broader issues of whether OSHA’s policy created an strict statute of limitations for the Repeat look-back and whether OSHA has the authority, on a whim, to change enforcement policies like the Repeat look-back period without rulemaking or legislation.
The ALJ upheld the Repeat citation, and on appeal, the Second Circuit in Triumph Construction Corp. v. Sec. of Labor (Docket No. 16‐4128‐ag, March 14, 2018), held that because neither the OSH Act nor any regulations promulgated under the Act mandate or restrict any look-back time period for Repeat violations, OSHA was not bound by its own stated policy. OSHA has the discretion, in other words, to search an employer’s citation history as far back as it wishes to identify any prior substantially similar violations to serve as the basis for a present “repeat” violation. Continue reading →
As of January 2, 2018, civil penalties for workplace safety and health violations issued by federal OSHA increased again by 2% across the board. Although a 2% increase does not shock the system, this increase is part of a program that has resulted in OSHA’s civil penalty authority nearly doubling since 2016.
History of Civil Penalty Adjustments
As I sit here this afternoon wondering if the government will shut down over disputes about immigration and healthcare, I am reminded of a time just a couple of years ago, in late 2015, when we were again on the verge of a government shutdown over abortion rights and deficit spending. That shutdown was averted thanks to a backroom deal between outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Obama, which ultimately took the form of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. That “kick the can down the road” measure included a controversial statute that was essentially unknown (including by the folks within OSHA) and saw exactly zero seconds of debate on the floor. It was called the “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act,” and it mandated that executive agencies increase their maximum civil penalty authority by the percent increase to the Consumer Price Index since the last time the agencies had raised their penalties.
On June 30, 2016, the Department of Labor issued its Interim Final Rule to implement the Civil Penalty Inflation directive. OSHA’s civil penalty authority had been stagnant for as long as any other agency, not having been increased for 25 years (since 1990), so this “catch-up” penalty increase for OSHA was the most significant. Indeed, following the formula included in the statute, OSHA was required to increase its penalties on August 1, 2016 by the same percentage increase as the growth from the 1990 Consumer Price Index – Urban (CPI-U) to the October 2015 CPI-U, which was nearly 80%:
In addition to the one-time 80% “catch up” increase that went into effect on August 1, 2016, OSHA’s Interim Final Rule, the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act also required Continue reading →
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.
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” Rule. As 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.
Employers should be cautious of an email that has been circulating to numerous employers around the country that appears on its face to be a request from OSHA to download a guidance document about “Safety & Health at U.S.: Protecting Workers and Employers” in order to avoid being fined.
The email, which is not sent from a Department of Labor (“DOL”) email address, contains a newsletter clipping that has both the DOL and the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) logos at the top. It claims that the recipient employers have been selected in a database to receive this guidance document, and that they will receive “an unannounced, onsite inspection” to investigate whether they are meeting Safety & Health Requirements.
OSHA has confirmed that this email was not sent by the Agency. Employers should NOT click on any of the links in the email, should immediately delete it, and should run a virus scan. It is believed to be a phishing scam similar to ones that have plagued employers in the past. OSHA states that it will investigate and potentially refer the matter to the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.
Using OSHA as a front to trick employers has been a ploy scam artists have used in the past. For example, Continue reading →
Workplace violence has become a serious issue for employers throughout the United States. In the wake of the recent mass shootings that occurred in San Bernardino, CA and Hesston, KA, both of which occurred at least in part at an employer’s workplace, it is important for employers to be aware of the potential for violence in the workplace and ways in which it can be prevented. Although these two incidents may not have been foreseeable or preventable, these incidents will nevertheless bring more attention to this issue, including by litigants and regulators.
Workplace violence can be categorized in three ways:
Violence by an employee;
Violence by a stranger; or
Violence by a known third party.
Depending on the facts of each incident, an employer may be faced with a lawsuit and/or a regulatory investigation and enforcement action. In Virginia, the law generally shields employers from liability for physical harm caused to employees or customers by the violent acts of co-employees or third parties. However, even if an employer evades civil liability, employers may still be subject to an investigation by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, and incur significant civil penalties.
Given the potential for both a civil suit and a government investigation, employers should implement workplace policies and programs that help keep the workplace safe and free of workplace violence. This article details the potential legal liabilities and penalties employers may incur from workplace violence incidents, and provides guidance on how prevent such incidents or liabilities from occurring. Continue reading →
“providing employers and workers with a sound, flexible framework for addressing safety and health issues in the workplace.”
Comments about the draft Guidelines are due by February 15, 2016, and OSHA has stated its intention to hold a public meeting in March 2016 to receive further comment on the guidelines. OSHA’s projected final release date for the revised Guidelines is sometime in the Spring or Summer of 2016, before the end of President Obama’s second term.
Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, an epidemiologist by training, is a big believer in the value of data. From our experience, he loves to analyze quantitative data and set policy based on this analysis. A primary reason for the resurrection and revision of the H&S Management Guidelines, we suspect, is the strong correlation Dr. Michaels has found between the application of sound safety and health management practices and lower rates of incidents of occupational injuries and illnesses.
OSHA’s analysis shows that where effective safety and health management is practiced, injury and illness rates are significantly less than rates at comparable worksites where safety and health management is weak or non-existent. Hence, before he leaves office, it is no surprise that Dr. Michaels has Continue reading →