Responding to OSHA 11(c) Retaliation Charges, Employee Safety Complaints, and Rapid Response Investigations

By Lindsay A. DiSalvo and Beeta B. Lashkari

When OSHA receives a complaint related to worker safety and health or a severe injury report, one action by OSHA is to give the employer an opportunity to respond before it takes the more extreme action of opening an inspection.  In addition, when OSHA receives an allegation of retaliation, it must provide the employer a chance to explain why the adverse employment action of which it is accused was legitimate or did not occur as alleged.  These responses are an opportunity for the employer to avoid an inspection or litigation of a retaliation claim.  A strong response could assuage OSHA’s concerns and resolve the complaint in a favorable manner for the employer.  However, these responses can also create a written record of admissions to which OSHA can hold the employer accountable, and any supporting documentation may be closely scrutinized and used to create liability.

Thus, employers must ensure there is a procedure in place for managing and developing the responses to these situations, and be strategic about the information they share with OSHA in the response.  We are pleased to share the following tips and strategies for how to effectively address such complaints.

Whistleblower Complaints

To start, although OSHA enforces whistleblower standards under 22 different statutes, the agency receives most of its retaliation claims (over 62%) under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Section 11(c) prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who in good faith attempt to exercise a worker safety-related protected right under the law.

While the vast majority – about 71% – are either dismissed by OSHA or withdrawn by the employee, the sheer number of complaints OSHA receives, and the fact that nearly 30% of them do end in favor of the employee, should be more than motivation for employers to thoroughly address each one filed against them.  This is particularly true because, under Section 11(c), employees can be entitled to substantial remedies, such as Continue reading

Fate of Obama-Era OSHA Regulations and Enforcement Policies Under the Trump Administration

By Eric J. Conn and Micah Smith

In the final days (and even hours) of the Obama Administration, OSHA promulgated several significant regulatory changes.  For example, after several decades, it updated the Walking Working Surfaces Standard (the regulation covering slips, trips and falls).  It also published a controversial Electronic Injury Data Submission Rule, two new occupational health exposure standards for silica and beryllium, and brought the U.S. Hazard Communication Standard (the chemical right-to-know regulation) more in line with the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.  To name a few.  But, as a new administration took the reigns at the Department of Labor, many wondered what would be the fate of these “midnight rules”?

While some Obama-era OSHA regulations have been subject to additional rulemaking (or even rule-rescinding), as expected given Pres. Trump’s promises for deregulation, most have remained untouched.  Indeed, when Scott Mugno, President Trump’s nominee for OSHA’s top job, recently announced his decision that he was withdrawing his name from consideration, the likelihood that OSHA would remain without a permanent, appointed leader for the entirety President Trump’s term has increased dramatically, and conversely, without a captain steering the ship, the likelihood of OSHA carrying out the Trump Administration’s plan for major de-regulatory action has dramatically decreased.

Much more likely, OSHA will continue to operate over the course of the next year and a half of the Trump Administration as it has since shortly after his Inauguration – modest de-regulatory efforts to nibble around the edges of Obama-era regulations, but nothing close to the level of radical deregulation that had been advertised on the campaign trail and which we have seen at other agencies.  Thus, the “midnight” regulations promulgated at the tail end of the Obama Administration appear likely to remain largely intact. Continue reading

[Webinar] Preparing for and Managing OSHA Inspections and Citations

On Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Eric J. Conn and Amanda Strainis-Walker of Conn Maciel Carey‘s national OSHA Practice will present a complimentary webinar regarding “Preparing for and Managing OSHA Inspections and Citations.”

Confounding expectations, federal OSHA under the Trump Administration has continued the same aggressive enforcement model we saw during the Obama Administration.  Indeed, by many metrics we are seeing enhanced enforcement — more inspections, higher civil penalties, record numbers of $100K+ citation packages, and a continuing rise in willful / repeat citations and worker safety criminal prosecutions.

OSHA has also continued its aggressive inspection strategies that create a minefield for employers.  In short, the consequences for employers being caught ill-prepared for an OSHA inspection, and making bad choices during inspections and after citations are issued, are more dire now than ever before.

This webinar will provide employers with the knowledge and tools they need to prepare in advance for an OSHA inspection, to manage the inspection to a successful outcome once it begins, and to make smart decisions about how to address citations after they issue.

Specifically, participants in this webinar will learn:

Continue reading

Key Cal/OSHA Issues California Employers Must Track [Webinar Recording]

On May 28, 2019, Andrew J. SommerEric J. Conn and Megan S. Shaked  of Conn Maciel Carey LLP‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding: “Key Cal/OSHA Issues California Employers Must Track.”

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, 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.

Of particular significance in the coming year, California employers should be on the lookout for a new permanent E-Recordkeeping injury data submission rule, a new focus on finding Repeat violations, and the roll-out of several new California-unique rules.

Participants in this webinar learned about:​

Continue reading

“Unexpected Energization” Still Essential to Require Lockout/Tagout Despite Controversial OSHA Rulemaking

By Dan C. Deacon and Eric J. Conn

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

OSHRC Dramatically Expands Interpretation of “Interconnected” for PSM-Coverage

By Eric J. Conn and Micah Smith

On March 28, 2019, the OSH Review Commission released its decision in Sec’y of Labor v. Wynnewood Refining, OSHRC, Nos. 13-0644 & 13-0791.  In a fairly brief opinion, the Commission affirmed the decision of the ALJ on two significant issues:

  1. the PSM standard applied to a utilities boiler; and
  2. OSHA inappropriately relied upon the citation history of a prior owner in characterizing citations as Repeat.

Expanding PSM Coverage

With regard to PSM applicability, the decision is framed as a response to the arguments raised in the refinery’s brief, but it does not directly address the arguments raised by the amicus brief filed by AFPM and API.  The Commission began its discussion of PSM applicability by evaluating the meaning of the definition of “process,” in particular how to interpret this phrase:

“For purposes of this definition, any group of vessels which are interconnected and separate vessels which are located such that a highly hazardous chemical (HHC) could be involved in a potential release shall be considered a single process.”

The Commission held that, in order to prove a group of vessels qualify as a process, OSHA may prove either that a) the group of vessels are interconnected or b) separate vessels are located such that an HHC could be involved in a potential release.  With surprisingly little analysis, the Commission held that this was the plain meaning of the terms of the standard, and the Commission did not evaluate at all whether OSHA’s interpretation deserved deference.  (Note:  Chairwoman MacDougall disagreed that this was the plain meaning of the terms, but she agreed that OSHA’s interpretation of the definition deserved deference.)

This decision gave no credence to the arguments made by the refinery and the amici, which both urged the Commission to find that interconnected vessels be considered a single process only if there is a reasonable probability that an event such as an explosion would affect the interconnected vessels. Continue reading

OSHA’s New Site-Specific Targeting Enforcement Program [Webinar Recording]

On March 19, 2019 Amanda Walker, Aaron Gelb and Dan Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey LLP‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding: “OSHA’s New Site-Specific Targeting Enforcement Program.

More than two years after OSHA published the E-Recordkeeping Rule, the agency finally revealed some of its plans for how it will utilize employers’ 300A injury data collected under the new Rule.  In late October 2018, OSHA launched its new Site-Specific Targeting Enforcement Program, which outlines how the agency will select non-construction establishments for programmed inspection. OSHA will create targeted inspection lists based on employers’ higher than average Days Way, Restricted or Transfer (“DART”) injury rates. OSHA will also include a random sample of establishments with lower than expected injury rates for quality control. Thus, all employers covered by OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule may be subject to an SST inspection.

Participants in this webinar learned: Continue reading

2019 Update on OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Significant Injury Reporting Rules [Webinar Recording]

On February 12, 2019 Lindsay DiSalvo and Dan Deacon from Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding: “Updates About OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Significant Injury Reporting Rules.

OSHA’s controversial E-Recordkeeping Rule has been challenged and criticized by stakeholders since its inception, and finally, in January 2019, the Trump Administration unveiled its Final Amended Rule. However, the Amended Rule did not go nearly as far as many expected or hoped. Indeed, the Amended Rule eliminated only the requirement for large establishments to submit 300/301 data, but did nothing to alleviate the data submission burden on smaller employers, and did not address the controversial anti-retaliation provisions (e.g., limits to post-injury drug testing and safety incentive programs) at all.

Not to be confused with E-Recordkeeping, OSHA’s Significant Injury and Fatality Reporting Rule has created significant new interactions between employers and OSHA since its update in 2015.  Many employers still wrestle with the nuances of when and how to report significant injuries involving hospitalizations, amputations, and fatalities to OSHA.  In particular, employers are struggling to determine what constitutes a reportable hospitalization and amputation.

During this webinar, participants learned: Continue reading

Top 5 OSHA Issues to Track in 2019 and OSHA’s 2018 in Review [Webinar Recording]

On January 15, 2019, the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar on “The Top 5 OSHA Issues to Track in 2019, and OSHA’s 2018 In Review.” 

The ball has dropped, the confetti has been swept out of Times Square, and 2018 is in the books.  It’s time to look back and take stock of what we learned from and about OSHA over the past year.  More importantly, it is time to look ahead to what we can expect from OSHA as we transition to the out years of President Trump’s first term.  This webinar reviewed OSHA enforcement, rulemaking, and other developments from 2018, and discussed the Top 5 OSHA Issues employers should monitor and prepare for in the New Year.

During this webinar, participants learned: Continue reading

Delinquent State OSH Agencies Adopt E-Recordkeeping; Calif. Employers to Submit 2017 Injury Data by Year End

By Andrew Sommer, Megan Shaked, and Dan Deacon

As we have reviewed previously on the OSHA Defense Report, federal OSHA’s Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) requires small employers that operate in certain “high hazard industries” and all large employers to proactively submit their electronic injury and illness data to OSHA through a web portal – the Injury Tracking Application (“ITA”).

When federal OSHA promulgated the Rule in 2016, E-Recordkeeping Ruleit built into the Rule a mandate that all State Plans adopt substantially identical requirements within six months after its publication.  Implementation of the federal Rule, however, has been mired in difficulty from industry challenges, shifting guidance, informal changes, extended deadlines and mixed signals about the future of the rule as we transitioned from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.  As a result, numerous State OSH programs failed to initially adopt the rule.  After some headbutting with federal OSHA, almost all of the delinquent states, including California, have now implemented rules to “catch-up” to the federal OSHA data submission rule.

Delinquent State Plans Began Adopting E-Recordkeeping

In the midst of uncertainty surrounding federal OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule, several State Plans delayed adopting state versions, even after OSHA made it clear that state plans needed to act soon.  While the majority of State Plans acted promptly to promulgate their own version of the E-Recordkeeping rule by the end of 2017, eight State Plans had not yet adopted the rule, including:

  • California (Cal/OSHA);
  • Washington (WA DLI, WISHA, or DOSH);
  • Maryland (MOSH);
  • Minnesota (MNOSHA);
  • South Carolina (SC OSHA);
  • Utah (UOSH);
  • Wyoming (Wy OSHA); and
  • Vermont (VOSHA)

Give the substantial number of State Plans that failed to comply with the Rule’s order, federal OSHA attempted to force covered employers in these State Plans to submit 300A data despite not being subject to the rule or federal OSHA’s jurisdiction.  Specifically, on April 30, 2018, federal OSHA issued a Continue reading

OSHA’s New Site-Specific Targeting Inspection Initiative

By Dan C. Deacon and Eric J. Conn

After years of wondering how OSHA could possibly manage and use data collected under the 2016 E-Recordkeeping Rule, the agency has finally revealed its hand.  Last month, OSHA launched its Site-Specific Targeting 2016 (“SST-16”) inspection plan, which outlines the agency’s strategy to target establishments for inspection based on the 300A data collected by OSHA under its Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illness (i.e.  the “E-Recordkeeping Rule”).

What is OSHA’s SST-16 Inspection Plan?

The SST-16 Inspection Plan is OSHA’s site-specific targeting inspection plan for non-construction workplaces that have 20 or more employees.  The Plan is based on the calendar year 2016 300A injury and illness summary data that employers submitted to OSHA via OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (aka, the E-Recordkeeping Portal) in December 2017.

Employers should not be surprised by OSHA’s site-specific targeting plan, as this is not a novel program for OSHA. SST was the grandfather of all OSHA enforcement emphasis programs.  Prior to 2014, SST programs used injury and illness information collected under the former OSHA Data Initiative to target the agency’s inspection resources.

OSHA believes the SST Program is “program helps OSHA achieve its goal of ensuring that employers provide safe and healthful workplaces by directing enforcement resources to those workplaces with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses.

The SST-16 Plan selects individual establishments for inspection based on their CY 2016 300A injury data submitted under the E-Recordkeeping Rule.  OSHA has created a software that will generate a list of targeted establishments for enforcement from this pool of data.  The targeted establishments will be those with Continue reading

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s 2019 OSHA Webinar Series

We are now two years into the Trump Administration, and we have seen a mixed bag of changes in the OSHA enforcement and regulatory landscape. We have watched some late Obama-era OSHA rules get repealed by the Congressional Review Act or delayed and amended through deregulatory rulemaking.  We have seen some efforts to boost up the VPP Program and other cooperative programs—the sorts of policy shifts at OSHA many expect in a transition to a republican administration. However, we have also been surprised by OSHA increasing the number of inspections, setting records for the number of $100K+ enforcement actions, and continuing to issue hard hitting press releases.  And most surprising of all, OSHA still does not have a Senate-approved Assistant Secretary—the longest ever wait for a permanent OSHA Administrator.

As we move into the out years of Pres. Trump’s first term, we expect more reshuffling of OSHA’s enforcement priorities and policies, and more surprises, so it is critical to stay abreast of OSHA developments. This complimentary 2019 OSHA Webinar Series, presented by the OSHA-specialist attorneys in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group, is designed to give employers insight into changes and developments at OSHA during this unpredictable time.

To register for an individual webinar, click the registration link in the program descriptions below. To register for the entire 2019 Series, click here to send an email request, and we will get you registered. If you missed any of our OSHA programs, here is a link to our webinar archive.


2019 OSHA Webinar Series – Program Schedule
OSHA Year in Review & 2019 Forecast

Tuesday, January 15th

Tips to Survive an OSHA Inspection

Tuesday, July 23rd

Updates on OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Serious Injury Reporting Rules

Tuesday, February 12th

Joint- and Multi-Employers, Contractors and Temps

Tuesday, August 13th

OSHA’s New Site-Specific
Targeting Enforcement Program

Tuesday, March 19th

OSHA’s Electrical Safety Standards – Top 5 Risks and Mistakes

Tuesday, September 24th

Responding to 11(c) Retaliation Claims & Employee Safety Complaints

Tuesday, April 16th

What You Need to Know About OSHA’s Health Exposure Standards

Tuesday, October 22nd

New Cal/OSHA Enforcement Issues

Tuesday, May 28th

 OSHA PSM and EPA RMP Update

Tuesday, November 19th

The Fate of Numerous Midnight Obama-Era OSHA Rules

Tuesday, June 18th

Workplace Violence & Harassment – OSHA & Employment Law Issues

Tuesday, December 17th

See below for descriptions of the webinars and registration links Continue reading

[Webinar] OSHA and the ADA: How Two Labor Laws Align and Diverge

On Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 1 PM Eastern, join Jordan B. Schwartz and Lindsay A. DiSalvo of the law firm Conn Maciel Carey for a complimentary webinar: “OSHA and the ADA: How Two Labor Laws Align and Diverge.”

OSHA guidance states that “if an employee can perform their job functions in a manner which does not pose a safety hazard to themselves or others, the fact they have a disability is irrelevant.”  But under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it can be difficult to determine when and how to accommodate a disability while also protecting safety of disabled employees and their co-workers.  This assessment is further complicated when employers are unaware a disability may cause or contribute to a workplace hazard.  It is important to understand the law in this context, especially due to America’s aging workforce.

The ADA also requires medical information related to a disability be kept confidential, yet OSHA mandates certain information be provided on OSHA injuries and illness recordkeeping Logs.  A disability may also impact whether and how an injury is recorded.  Likewise, both the ADA and OSHA rules impact employee drug testing and handling drug test information.  Therefore, it is critical for employers to understand the intersection between the ADA and OSHA.

​During this webinar, participants will learn: Continue reading

Process Safety Update: The Latest with OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule [Webinar Recording]

Following the tragic West Fertilizer explosion in 2013, then-President Obama issued an Executive Order directing OSHA, EPA and other agencies to “modernize” the way the government regulates chemical manufacturing processes. OSHA and EPA took sweeping actions in response to the Executive Order, from enforcement initiatives (like the second wave of Refinery PSM NEP inspections) to rulemaking and interpretation letters to overhaul OSHA’s PSM and EPA’s RMP regulatory landscape.

Then President Trump took office with a de-regulatory agenda.  Just days into office, key safety and environmental regulations were delayed or repealed, new political leadership was installed, and enforcement policies were reexamined. So where does that leave OSHA’s and EPA’s efforts to change the structure of process safety management?

This webinar reviewed the status and likely future of OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule, and other major safety and health related developments rolling out in the early stages of the Trump Administration.

Continue reading

Key Takeaways from the Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC

Key Takeaways from the Inaugural
Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC

By the national OSHA Practice at Conn Maciel Carey LLP

The Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC on October 23, 2018 was a huge success.  The event allowed the more than 160 safety and legal representatives from the petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing, paper manufacturing, and fertilizer industries to hear from and share with senior federal government officials from OSHA, EPA and the Chemical Safety Board, both through interactive panel discussions and breakout roundtable discussions.  The agency panels and facilitated discussions covered topics ranging from enforcement under the Trump Administration, to the status of OSHA’s PSM and RMP Rulemakings, candid debates about major issues in dispute in recent PSM and RMP case, and practical discussions about how to prepare for the next round of inspections under OSHA’s new PSM National Emphasis Program and how to comply with RMP in the wake of the new Amendments and the imminent Rescission Rule.

Introduction

The day began with welcome remarks from Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice.  Eric set two themes for the Summit:

  1. the importance of candid discussions between regulators and the regulated community; and
  2. the near-term risk of agencies working to upend the historical performance-oriented paradigm of the process safety regulatory framework.

Too often, OSHA and EPA representatives complain that Industry “can make up the rules as it goes along.” – Tweet from David Michaels, Former Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.

Statements like that imply a haphazard approach to process safety that it is not reflected by the diligent work of refiners and manufacturers across the country.  Our experience shows a much different take on process safety.  We hear about all of the ways that process safety is evolving, much more often on Industry’s own initiative than in response to a regulatory action.  We watch how lessons are being learned and applied from incidents and experience.  We see how much time is spent trying to anticipate the kinds of issues that could cause a process safety incident.  And we feel a regulatory backlash, when process safety problems are most often found in outliers or with operations not even covered by OSHA’s or EPA’s process safety regulations.

More importantly, remarks about Industry making up the rules as it goes along also reflect a flawed belief by regulators that Continue reading

OSHA’s New Emphasis Program for Fertilizer Grade Ammonium Nitrate and Anhydrous Ammonia

By: Aaron R. Gelb and Beeta B. Lashkari

On September 25, 2018, OSHA announced the launch of a new Regional Emphasis Program (REP) to address the hazards from exposure to fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN) and agricultural anhydrous ammonia.  The REP, effective October 1, 2018, covers the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas in OSHA Region VI, and Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska in OSHA Region VII.  OSHA will commence enforcement activities on January 1, 2019, after a three-month period of education and prevention outreach.  FGAN REP_2Generally, enforcement activities will include the inspection and review of: (1) production operations and working conditions; (2) injury and illness records; (3) safety and health programs; and (4) chemical handling and use.  OSHA’s decision to initiate a new REP covering two regions and seven states is yet another reminder that the agency is continuing full-speed ahead with enforcement efforts.  While many anticipated that the Trump administration would retire OSHA’s national, regional and local emphasis programs, that has not happened.  To the contrary, OSHA continues to implement the same number of enforcement emphasis programs as at the end of the Obama administration.

What prompted OSHA to act now?

On April 17, 2013, a fire and explosion involving FGAN occurred at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, resulting in at least 14 fatalities.  While OSHA and the West Fertilizer Company ultimately reached a settlement, OSHA initially issued more than 20 citations, including several under Section (i) of its Explosives and Blasting Agents Standard.  Continue reading

All You Never Wanted to Know about OSHA Repeat, Willful & Egregious Violations [Webinar Recording]

On October 16, 2018, Eric J. Conn and Amanda R. Walker of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar: “Everything You Never Wanted to Know about OSHA Repeat, Willful and Egregious Violations.” 

During the Obama Era, OSHA sharpened its enforcement teeth considerably by rewriting policies to characterize more violations as repeat and willful, and by significantly increasing its civil penalty authority. Now, OSHA violations characterized as Repeat or Willful carry penalties up to approx. $126,000 each. But what are Repeat and Willful violations? And what are these “Egregious” (or per-instance) citations OSHA has been issuing more and more often that lead to multi-million dollar enforcement actions?

This webinar covered the legal standard for Repeat, Willful and Egregious violations, the circumstances most often associated with them, the consequences for receiving them, and how OSHA’s enforcement policies have resulted in significant increases in the frequency with which we see them.

Participants in this webinar learned: Continue reading

Confounding Expectations, OSHA Enforcement in the Trump Administration Is On the Rise

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta B. Lashkari

Based on the rhetoric from the 2016 presidential campaign trail, it was reasonable for Industry to anticipate OSHA enforcement under a Trump Administration to contract significantly from the aggressive enforcement model employed by Pres. Obama’s OSHA.  Informed by the enforcement philosophies of past Republican administrations, the expectation was that a Pres. Trump / Sec. Acosta OSHA would scale back enforcement, favor compliance assistance, slash OSHA’s budget and staff to limit enforcement, retire national and local emphasis enforcement programs, revise enforcement policies that inflate civil penalties, and otherwise retool its approach to ease the regulatory burden on employers.

The reality, however, is that OSHA during the Trump-era has not backed down from its enforcement mission.  Quite to the contrary, relevant enforcement data reveals enforcement creep.  With still no Trump-appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA in place nearly two years into the Trump Administration, career OSHA staff have considerable influence over the direction OSHA is steering, and that is why little has changed, and why change may not be on the near horizon.

Here are some of the key ways that OSHA enforcement is hardly distinguishable two years into the Trump Administration from OSHA during the Obama Administration:

  • OSHA’s FY19 budget is increasing by $5M from the end of the Obama-era (nearly $560M total)
  • The number of employees at OSHA dipped at the start of the Trump Administration, but it has restored to roughly the same as the end of the Obama-era (approx. 2,000)

  • The number of National and Local Emphasis Enforcement Programs remains essentially the same (approx. 150 Local/Regional Emphasis Programs and 9 National Emphasis Programs), including new or retooled NEPs for petroleum refineries and trenching
  • The total number of fed OSHA inspections actually increased from 31,948 in FY2016 to 32,396 in FY2017 (the first year over year increase in the number of inspections in nearly a decade)

Continue reading

Free In-Person OSHA and Labor & Employment Client Briefing in Chicago – September 25, 2018

Join Conn Maciel Carey for an In-Person OSHA and Labor & Employment Briefing in Chicago on Tues., Sept. 25, 2018, and stay for a reception to celebrate the launch of our Chicago Office.

This complimentary program will feature panel discussions with representatives from EEOC, NLRB, and OSHA addressing key policy trends and regulatory developments.  They will be joined by senior corporate counsel from multinational corporations and Conn Maciel Carey’s Labor & Employment and OSHA specialist attorneys.  There will also be moderated breakout roundtable sessions covering issues of concern to various industry segments.


Agenda

1:00 PM – Registration and Networking
1:30 PM – OSHA Panel
  • Angie Loftus (OSHA Area Director – Chicago North Area Office)
  • Nick Walters (Former OSHA Regional Administrator – Region 5) Continue reading

OSHA’s Policy of Public Shaming: Status and Future under the Trump Admin. [Webinar Recording]

On August 21, 2018, Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar: “OSHA’s Policies of Public Shaming: the Status under the Trump Admin. and the Future.

As a small budget agency, OSHA has long looked for policies that will leverage individual enforcement actions to have the greatest impact on Industry.  That is the origin of OSHA’s controversial policy of “Regulation by Shaming.”  During the Obama Administration, employer shaming became a significant enforcement tool and came in many forms, from increasing use of enforcement press releases that included embarrassing and inflammatory quotations about employers, to maintaining a public bad actors list in connection with the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, and the pièce de résistance – publishing a Rule by which OSHA will collect and publish employers’ injury and illness data and details about fatalities.

The Trump Administration has signaled it will take a different approach to public shaming, but at the very least, the vestiges of these policies still remain, and some Administration actions suggest they are here to stay.

During this webinar, participants learned about:

Continue reading

Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC – October 22-23, 2018

Attend the Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC on October 22-23, 2018, presented by Conn Maciel Carey LLP and sponsored by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

What is the Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC?

The Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC will be an annual event featuring a full-day program in Washington, DC gathering interested stakeholders from the chemical, petrochemical, and petroleum refining industries, and other industries with operations impacted by OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule.

The focus of the Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC will be on the process safety regulatory landscape.  The full-day Program will cover the PSM/RMP rulemakings, enforcement programs, significant cases, trends through the transition to the new Administration, best practices, and other key process safety regulatory issues impacting Industry.

This Process Safety Summit fills an important gap in Washington, DC.  Although there are opportunities for trade groups and employers to interact with key government regulators, none of those opportunities focus on process safety, and the process safety-oriented events that do exist are far from Washington, DC, making it hard to attract more than one senior agency official.

The format and agenda will include Continue reading

Important Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Track [Webinar Recording]

On July 10, 2018, Conn Maciel Carey attorneys Andrew J. Sommer, Eric J. Conn, and Megan S. Shaked presented a webinar: “Key Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Track.”

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, 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.

Of particular significance, in the coming year, California employers can expect an uptick in Cal/OSHA penalties as result of two significant changes, one adopting higher maximum civil penalty authority, and the other changing how the agency finds and cites violations characterized as Repeat.

During this webinar, participants learned about:

Continue reading

Unlock the Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Rule (PART 2 of 2 – Five Common LOTO Mistakes)

By Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb

For a host of reasons, it is vital for employers to get compliance with OSHA’s standard for the “control of hazardous energy (Lockout/Tagout)” (29 C.F.R. 1910.147) (LOTO) right, but it also happens to be one of the least understood and most often botched set of regulatory requirements in OSHA’s portfolio of standards.

This two-part article lays out:

  • [Part 1]: 5 reasons it is critical for employers to ensure compliance with OSHA’s LOTO Standard; and
  • [Part 2]: 5 common mistakes employers make implementing LOTO requirements.

Part 1 Summary: Five Reasons it is Critical to Get LOTO Right

As we discussed in Part 1 of this two-part article, there are five important OSHA enforcement reasons why it is vital for employers to truly grasp OSHA’s regulatory requirements for lockout/tagout (LOTO) and implement them.

Those 5 reasons are:

  1. Amputation Injuries Create Special Reporting Obligations
  2. LOTO Citations are Low Hanging Fruit for OSHA
  3. OSHA is Actively Pursuing LOTO Violations with a National Emphasis Program
  4. LOTO Violations Qualify for the Severe Violator Enforcement Program
  5. LOTO Violations are Among the Most Used for OSH Act Criminal Prosecutions

For a detailed discussion about those reasons, check out Part 1 of this two-part article.

Part 2: Five Common LOTO Mistakes

This part details the five most common mistakes and misunderstandings associated with OSHA’s regulatory requirements for LOTO.

     1. Confusion about When the LOTO Standard Applies

Normal production operations are not covered by the LOTO standard.  Rather, the requirements of OSHA’s LOTO standard kick in during servicing and/or maintenance, or any production activity that requires an employee to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device, or if an employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is performed upon the material being processed.  Otherwise, the employer is expected to install and maintain appropriate guards that protect employees as required by 1910.212, OSHA’s machine guarding standard.

While the LOTO and machine guarding standards tend to complement each other—one protects employees during normal production operations (guarding), while the other protects employees during servicing or maintenance (LOTO).  Technically, OSHA may not cite the Continue reading

Unlock the Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Rule (PART 1 of 2 – Five Reasons to Get LOTO Right)

By Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb

For a host of reasons, it is vital for employers to get compliance with OSHA’s standard for the “control of hazardous energy (Lockout/Tagout)” (29 C.F.R. 1910.147) right, but it also happens to be one of the least understood and most often botched set of regulatory requirements in OSHA’s portfolio of standards.

This two-part article will lay out:

  • [Part 1]: Five reasons it is critical for employers to ensure compliance with OSHA’s LOTO Standard; and
  • [Part 2]: Five common mistakes employers make when implementing the LOTO requirements.

Part 1: Why it is Critical for Employers to Get LOTO Right

The list could be much longer, but we have identified five enforcement-related reasons why it is particularly important for employers to fully grasp OSHA’s LOTO requirements and to implement them effectively.

Before we get to the enforcement reasons for strict LOTO compliance, let’s first note that the associated hazards that LOTO was designed to protect against are serious and frequently realized.  Workers performing service or maintenance on machinery face the risk of serious injuries and even death, if hazardous energy is not properly controlled.  The most common types of injuries from unexpected energization during maintenance are amputations or lacerations to body parts, as well as electrocutions, burns, and crushing/struck-by.

OSHA reports that “craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.”  OSHA also explains that the failure to control hazardous energy accounts for 10% of the serious accidents in most industries.

While employers should never lose focus from that important safety reason to focus on LOTO, the purpose of this article is to address the numerous regulatory enforcement reasons that getting LOTO right is uniquely important.

    1.  Amputation Injuries Create Special Reporting Obligations

Amputations, which is one of the primary hazards intended to be addressed by effective LOTO, is one of the only specific injury types for which there is a special duty for employers to proactively to report to OSHA.  Continue reading

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

On June 5, 2018, Jordan B. Schwartz, Eric J. Conn, and Lindsay A. DiSalvo of Conn Maciel Carey, presented a webinar regarding “Joint and Multi-Employer, Independent Contractor, and Temp Labor OSHA and Employment Law Issues.

Employers’ perceptions about their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality, particularly in the context of oft-changing interpretations of what constitutes an employer-employee relationship. An employer may classify workers as a temp or independent contractor, but that does not mean DOL agrees. At the tail end of the Obama Admin.,  DOL issued guidance that a majority of workers should be treated as employees, insinuating that in most cases, employers are accountable for the obligations of an employer-employee relationship. However, the Trump Admin. appears is shifting gears. That guidance was withdrawn by new Sec. of Labor Acosta. Congress has also begun to undercut the broad joint-employer standard established by the NLRB in Browning-Ferris, by revisiting language in applicable laws. It remains essential for employers to carefully evaluate employment relationships and their own functions in the multi-employer context.

Even if there is no legal employer-employee relationship, companies may have safety obligations and liability depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or when using temporary workers. Protection of temporary workers was a priority of OSHA in the prior Admin., and the guidance developed in that context remains the current standard for host employers and staffing agencies. OSHA has also stood by its multi-employer policy, though it is being challenged in federal court.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading