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

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

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

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

OSHA’s Heat Illness Rulemaking Update – Recent NACOSH Meetings

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta B. Lashkari

OSHA’s rulemaking for an outdoor and indoor heat illness prevention rule continues to chug along, so we wanted to provide a quick review of the latest developments.  Of particular note, two meetings of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety & Health (NACOSH) focused on heat illness and the heat illness rulemaking were held on June 30th.  Conn Maciel Carey’s Employers Heat Illness Prevention Coalition participated in both. 

Here is a copy of the as-filed comments we submitted to OSHA in advance of these NACOSH meetings, reiterating our previously submitted comments, and requesting to speak at the June 30th NACOSH meeting (which request was granted).

The meetings were well attended by NACOSH committee members and OSHA staff, and included appearances from Andy Levinson (Acting Director, OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance), Lisa Long (Acting Deputy Director, OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance), Carla Marcellus (Office of Maritime and Agriculture), and Jennifer Levin (Committee Counsel, Office of the Solicitor).  Kate McMahon and Beeta Lashkari attended on behalf of our Coalition.  The first meeting was for public listening only, and Kate was one of only two public stakeholders who spoke at the second meeting, and the only employers’ representative to do so.

Here are the key takeaways from the two meetings, as well as a summary of the public statements we made to the NACOSH committee:  Continue reading

OSHA’S Top Regulatory Priorities… Other than COVID-19

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

In the June/July issue of Tank Storage Magazine, Eric J. Conn, Founding Partner and Chair of Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s OSHA • Workplace Safety Practice Group, looks at recent changes in OSHA’s regulatory policies in the article, “OSHA’S Top Regulatory Priorities…Other than COVID-19.”

Here is a summary of his observations.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not slowed it rulemaking activities despite the attention COVID-19 has demanded over the past two years. In just the past six months, OSHA has:

  1. Published a notice of proposed regulation to expand its Electronic Recordkeeping Rule;
  2. Initiated an enforcement National Emphasis Program to address Heat Illness; and
  3. Launched rulemaking for an Outdoor and Indoor Heat Illness Prevention standard.

OSHA’S Rulemaking to Expand the E-Recordkeeping Rule

OSHA’s Standard To Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses (aka, the E-Recordkeeping Rule) has experienced Continue reading

[Webinar] Evacuating the Workplace: Exit Routes and Exit Doors

On Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at 1 p.m. ET, join Lindsay A. DiSalvo, Micah Smith and Dan Deacon for a webinar regarding Evacuating the Workplace: Exit Routes and Exit Doors.

Evacuating the workplace during an emergency is critical. However, consistently maintaining compliant exit access, routes, and doors in a busy workplace is often challenging, especially in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and retail settings. OSHA routinely cites egress violations as Serious because of the potential for injury or death. It is an easy violation for inspectors to identify during on-site inspections, which often leads to the issuance of costly Repeat or Willful citations.

Temporary or permanent storage of materials can create several compliance issues related to OSHA’s egress requirements, but there are several ways to maintain compliant exit routes and doors and ensure that they are always accessible. Identifying and maintaining egress routes and exits is an important element of a workplace’s emergency action plan. Employers should carefully develop emergency action plans and ensure employees understand not only how to evacuate the workplace during an emergency but how to maintain proper egress routes and exits throughout their work shifts, as it provides employees with a safer workplace and may even save lives.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

Coalition to Work on OSHA’s Rulemaking to Expand the E-Recordkeeping Rule

On March 30th, OSHA published a new proposed rule to amend and dramatically expand the requirements of its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule (i.e., the E-Recordkeeping Rule).  Read our full article here for more information about the history of E-Recordkeeping, the new proposed amendments to the E-Recordkeeping Rule, and the implications of the proposed changes.

As we have had to do too often the last couple of years, Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Team is organizing a flat fee-based rulemaking coalition of employers and trade groups to collaborate to work on submitting public comments on this new proposal and otherwise participate in the rulemaking process to advocate for the most manageable possible E-Recordkeeping Rule.

We held a kickoff call for the coalition earlier this week.  If you were unable to attend, we are pleased to share links to the recording and a copy of the slides that we used. We expect to have a follow up virtual meeting in May to solicit detailed input from coalition participants and review our advocacy strategy.

There is still time to join our coalition if your organization would like to partner with us on this rulemaking.  OSHA requested public comments to be submitted by May 31, 2022.

We expect to address, among other important concerns, that: Continue reading

OSHA Launches an Enforcement National Emphasis Program For Outdoor and Indoor Heat Illness Prevention

By Beeta Lashkari and Eric Conn

Last week, on April 12, 2022, OSHA announced that it has launched an enforcement National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) for Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards.  The Heat Illness NEP applies to both indoor and outdoor workplaces, including general industry, construction, maritime, and agriculture.  The NEP is already in effect – as of April 8th – even before OSHA made its April 12th announcement, and will remain in effect for three years unless canceled or extended by a superseding directive.

Secretary of Labor Walsh, joined by Vice President Harris, announced this new enforcement program at a speech at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Training Center in Philadelphia with these remarks:

“Tragically, the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s. These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons or geography. From farm workers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers….  This enforcement program is another step towards our goal of a federal heat standard. Through this work, we’re also empowering workers with knowledge of their rights, especially the right to speak up about their safety without fear of retaliation.”

Below is an analysis of the mechanics of OSHA’s Heat Illness NEP: Continue reading

Washington’s New Safety Standard for Protecting Temporary Workers

By Aaron R. Gelb & Beeta B. Lashkari

Last Spring, Washington governor Jay Inslee signed into law Substitute House Bill (SHB) 1206, creating new duties for staffing agencies and worksite employers to protect the safety of temporary workers.  The law, codified at Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”) 49.17.490, went into effect on July 25, 2021, but received scant attention from the media or safety professionals—no doubt, in large part, due to an ongoing focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.  Nonetheless, given the extent to which many employers rely on temporary workers to staff their operations, this new law is one that covered employers should pay attention to and develop a plan to help ensure compliance.  Below is a summary of the scope and requirements of the new standard, as well best practice tips for covered employers.

Who Is Covered by the New Standard?

The new standard generally applies to staffing agencies and worksite employers, as defined by the standard:

  • A “staffing agency” is an employer as defined in Chapter 49.17 of the RCW and North American industry classification system (NAICS) 561320 and means an organization that recruits and hires its own employees and temporarily assigns those employees to perform work or services for another organization, under such other organization’s supervision, to:
    • (i) [s]upport or supplement the other organization’s workforce;
    • (ii) provide assistance in special work situations including, but not limited to, employee absences, skill shortages, or seasonal workloads; or
    • (iii) perform special assignments or projects.
  • “Worksite employer” is an employer as defined in Chapter 49.17 of the RCW and means an individual, company, corporation, or partnership with which a staffing agency contracts or otherwise agrees to furnish persons for temporary employment in the industries described in sectors 23 and 31 through 33 of the North American industry classification system.

Importantly, per the definition of “worksite employer” Continue reading

BREAKING – OSHA Reopens Rulemaking for a Permanent COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare (Expanded Scope)

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

After OSHA just recently initiated a three-month COVID-19 focused enforcement blitz targeting the healthcare industry, earlier this week, on March 22nd, OSHA announced that it has officially reopened the rulemaking record for a “permanent” COVID-19 standard applicable to the healthcare industry, and perhaps now some industries tangentially related to healthcare.

OSHA will accept comments on the proposed permanent standard through April 22, 2022, and has scheduled a public hearing on the rulemaking for April 27th.

Below we provide some important background and recommendations on next steps to ensure the healthcare industry and other potentially impacted employers maximize this opportunity to influence the direction and outcome of the permanent COVID-19 rulemaking.

Importantly, we also identify below a potential major expansion of the scope of coverage of the standard that OSHA is contemplating.  OSHA is explicitly considering eliminating the coverage exemption that had been included in the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare (the ETS) for those ambulatory care, non-hospital settings where some healthcare services are provided, but that screen individuals for COVID-19 before entry and prevent COVID-19 infected individuals from entering. If that exemption is not carried forward from the ETS into the permanent standard, then general industry manufacturers that have medical clinics onsite; dental and other doctors’ offices; retail pharmacies; etc. will be pulled into coverage under the permanent standard; i.e., any employer that operates any type of facility where any form of healthcare services are provided could be regulated by the permanent standard.  It is imperative, therefore, that potentially impacted employers participate in this rulemaking.

Why is OSHA Partially Reopening the Rulemaking? Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Enforcement and Regulatory Update [Webinar Recording]

On Tuesday, March 15, 2022, Andrew SommerFred Walter, and Megan Shaked presented a webinar regarding a Cal/OSHA Enforcement and Regulatory Update.

This has been a challenging year for California employers navigating the COVID-19 pandemic with a set of ever-changing regulatory requirements, as well as a flurry of other new workplace safety laws the legislature passed towards the end of 2021. This update covered the latest legislative and rulemaking developments concerning COVID-19, including the second re-adopted COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  We will also cover other laws creating new workplace safety requirements and expanding the Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (DOSH) enforcement authority.

During this webinar, participants learned about: Continue reading

BREAKING – OSHA Launches New COVID-19 Enforcement Blitz for Healthcare Employers

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

On Tuesday, March 8th, OSHA announced a major COVID-19 enforcement blitz in the healthcare industry that will last for the next three months.  OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum announcing the enforcement program, which OSHA is referring to as a major “saturation effort,” to ensure that hospitals and others in the healthcare industry have appropriate COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place to protect workers today and are prepared for a future variant.  The program will be comprised of a short-term burst of highly-focused inspections directed at hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities that treat COVID-19 patients.  Below is a summary of who is covered, when the enforcement effort will end, the impact on State OSH Plans, and what to expect during the inspections.

OSHA states that the goal of this inspection program is to expand its presence to ensure continued mitigation of the spread of COVID-19 and preparation for future variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and to protect the health and safety of healthcare workers at heightened risk for contracting the virus.  New Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Doug Parker stated:

“We are using available tools while we finalize a healthcare standard….  We want to be ahead of any future events in healthcare.”

OSHA plans to conduct as many as 1,000-1,500 inspections in the next 90 days to determine whether hospital and other healthcare workers are being adequately protected from COVID-19 spread at work.  The inspections will last 2-4 days and will focus on what had been the major elements of OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare.  The OSHA resources designated for this enforcement blitz and the revised COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP) will comprise at least 15% of OSHA’s enforcement activity for the year.

Who is Covered by the Enforcement Effort?

The initiative supplements OSHA’s targeted enforcement under the Revised COVID-19 NEP [DIR 2021-03 (CPL 03)], by conducting focused, partial follow-up and monitoring inspections of previously inspected or investigated hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities within four North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes listed in the enforcement memorandum, where COVID-19 citations or Hazard Alert Letters were issued, including remote-only inspections where COVID-19-related citations were issued.  Specifically, facilities in the four NAICS codes listed below may be selected for inspections under the initiative if they meet one of the following criteria: Continue reading

VOSH Begins the Process of Withdrawing its “Permanent” COVID-19 Rule

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

Last Wednesday (February 16th), at the direction of Virginia’s new Governor, Virginia OSHA’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted to withdraw VOSH’s COVID-19 Regulation. The Board’s vote came after VOSH recommended that COVID-19 no longer constituted a “grave danger,” the legal showing required to justify an emergency rule.  Procedurally, the board vote was just the first step. Next is a 30-day public comment period, followed by a public hearing, then a final Board vote. If the measure is in fact repealed after the final Board vote, then Virginia employers would no longer have to require employees who work indoors to wear a face covering,; social distance; provide employee training; improve or maintain ventilation systems; or inform the VA Department of Health about outbreaks.

Although this move comes in lock step with Friday’s CDC announcement that it is rescinding mask guidance, along with other states like California and New Jersey rescinding their mask mandate, on January 15th Virginia’s newly elected Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an Executive Order instructing the Board to Continue reading

CDC Relaxes Face Covering and Distancing Guidelines

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

As governors and big city mayors across the country have been allowing indoor masking mandates to expire over the last few weeks, last Friday, February 25th, the CDC unveiled a brand new approach to assessing COVID-19 risks and setting mask and distancing recommendations.   The CDC’s old tool, which measured the number of COVID-19 cases to determine the relevant level of virus transmission in each community had lost its usefulness as it rendered nearly the entire country as high-risk (95% of all counties), even as the number of people getting seriously ill had dropped precipitously this year.

CDC’s new guidelines measure the impact the pandemic by looking at three factors week over week:

  1. New cases per capita (as with the prior guidelines; but also
  2. New COVID-19 related hospital admissions; and
  3. The percentage of area hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Each county will have a weekly “COVID Community Level Rating” that is either Low (green), Medium (yellow) or High (orange).  Each level/color has recommended mitigation strategies, set in the table below:

Here is a link to CDC’s tool to identify the level of COVID-19 transmission in your county.

The big news is that CDC recommends Continue reading

OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency and Permanent Standards and Enforcement [Webinar Recording]

On Thursday, February 10, 2022, Eric J. ConnKate McMahonAaron Gelb and Amanda Strainis-Walker presented a webinar regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency and Permanent Standards and Enforcement.

As US employers grapple with the latest surge of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant, they are also left to grapple with uncertainty following the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstitute a Stay of OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS. Will we see another COVID-19 emergency rule that tries to navigate the guardrails set by the Supreme Court? Will OSHA return to aggressive enforcement under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause? What is expected from employers on the COVID-19 front to avoid OSHA enforcement?

During this webinar, attorneys from CMC’s COVID-19 Task Force provided a detailed analysis of OSHA’s regulatory and enforcement landscape post-Supreme Court. Specifically, we addressed these important questions raised by the latest developments on the COVID-19 front: Continue reading

[WEBINAR] OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency and Permanent Standards and Enforcement

On Thursday, February 10, 2022 at 1 p.m. EST, join Eric J. Conn, Kate McMahon, Aaron Gelb and Amanda Strainis-Walker for a webinar regarding OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency and Permanent Standards and Enforcement.

As US employers grapple with the latest surge of COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant, they are also left to grapple with uncertainty following the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstitute a Stay of OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS. Will we see another COVID-19 emergency rule that tries to navigate the guardrails set by the Supreme Court? Will OSHA return to aggressive enforcement under the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause? What is expected from employers on the COVID-19 front to avoid OSHA enforcement?

During this webinar, attorneys from CMC’s COVID-19 Task Force will provide a detailed analysis of OSHA’s regulatory and enforcement landscape post-Supreme Court. Specifically, we will address these important questions raised by the latest developments on the COVID-19 front: Continue reading

OSHA Withdraws Its Vaccinate-or-Test ETS, But Continues Rulemaking for Two Permanent COVID-19 Rules

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

Earlier today, January 26, 2022, OSHA published in the Federal Register a Notice of Withdrawal of its COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Covering ETS.  After the Supreme Court’s January 13th decision in Nat’l Fed’n of Indep. Bus. v. Dep’t of Labor reinstituting the Stay of the ETS, the writing was on the wall for OSHA’s vaccinate-or-test ETS, but today’s announcement made it official.  The Notice of Withdrawal does not call for comment, as it is “impracticable, unnecessary, and contrary to the public interest.”  OSHA further explained that it would unnecessarily delay the resolution of ambiguity for employers and workers.  So that’s that for the Vaccinate-or-Test ETS, effective immediately.

Nevertheless, this dead horse may be in store for some more beating.  As you know, the day the ETS was published in the Federal Register back in November, pursuant to Sec. 6(c)(3) of the OSH Act, it became the “proposed rule” in a rulemaking that automatically kicked off to establish a permanent replacement vaccinate-or-test standard.  In OSHA’s other big announcement today, the agency indicated that it has not withdrawn that rulemaking.  Rather, OSHA declared its intent to move forward with a permanent rulemaking.

This was yet another fascinating development in this roller coaster.  While we anticipated that OSHA would withdraw the vaccinate-or-test ETS to avoid having a full merits adjudication by the Supreme Court that would establish more concrete precedent narrowing OSHA’s rulemaking authority, we continue to be surprised to see that OSHA is continuing on with the permanent rulemaking.

Recall that the Supreme Court did not say that OSHA’s ETS exceeded the agency’s emergency rulemaking authority.  Rather, the Court found that Continue reading

OSHA COVID-19 Regulation and Enforcement Post-Supreme Court [Webinar Recording]

On Thursday, January 20, 2022 we hosted a special bonus event in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 OSHA Webinar Series in the form of a panel webinar program regarding OSHA COVID-19 Regulation and Enforcement After the Supreme Court Stayed the Vaccinate-or-Test ETS.

Presented by
Conn Maciel Carey LLP with Special Guests
Neal Katyal and Jordan Barab

In this exclusive, bonus program we facilitated a panel discussion regarding the Supreme Court’s recent decision to stay OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test emergency temporary standard, what that decision means for employers in fed OSHA and State OSH Plan states, and how OSHA will address the COVID-19 hazard in the workplace moving forward.

We would like to extend our gratitude to our remarkable cast of panelists for participating in this event:

  • Neal Katyal – former Acting Solicitor General of the United States and leading Constitutional Law expert; Partner at Hogan Lovells and Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center
  • Jordan Barab – President Obama’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA and Acting Head of OSHA; former Sr. Policy Advisor to the US House Education and Labor Committee
  • Moderated by Eric J. Conn, Chair, Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s national OSHA Practice Group

The Supreme Court has spoken, and OSHA’s Vaccination, Testing and Face Coverings Emergency Temporary Standard is once again subject to a nationwide judicial stay.  The conservative majority on the Court reasoned that the 50-year old OSH Act does not include an explicit-enough delegation of authority from the US Congress for OSHA to issue a regulation that addresses an issue that is not unique to the workplace and which is of such great economic and social significance. Shortly after the Supreme Court issued its decision, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh announced that “OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers, including under the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause.”

So, the big question facing employers now is what are the potential regulatory pitfalls from unwinding or stopping the implementation of any of their COVID-19 prevention and/or vaccination policies developed either in response to OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS or more general efforts to keep up with CDC recommendations and/or protect against OSHA General Duty Clause citations?  Or said another way, without the COVID-19 emergency standards, what does OSHA expect from employers on the COVID-19 front to avoid enforcement?

Our panel of experts reviewed: Continue reading

The Latest with Pres. Biden’s Federal Contractor COVID-19 Vaccine-Mandate Executive Order

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

It has been a real adventure trying to track all the different legal challenges in so many different courts to President Biden’s various different executive actions related to vaccination.  While the fate of the OSHA Vaccinate-or-Test ETS (dead) and the CMC Healthcare Vaccine-Mandate (very much alive) are essentially settled by the Supreme Court, the Federal Contractor Vaccine-Mandate Executive Order (EO 14042) is still meandering its way through the federal courts.  And there was a lot of activity in the courts this past Friday, January 21st, regarding the federal contractor EO and the federal employee vaccination mandate.

In the first case, Feds for Medical Freedom v. Biden, employees of federal contractors and employees of the federal government together are challenging both Executive Orders 14042 (vaccine-mandate for federal contractors) and 14043 (vaccine-mandate for federal employees).  Judge Jeffrey V. Brown (a Trump-appointee to the S.D. of Texas) issued an opinion and order enjoining only enforcement of the federal employee mandate.  Judge Brown’s reasoning in that case boiled down to a conclusion that injunctive relief is appropriate because: (1) the “Hobson’s Choice” of a workplace vaccine-mandate creates irreparable harm; and (2) the challenging federal employees have a likelihood of success on the merits because the President acted ultra vires and the implementation of EO 14043 violates the Administrative Procedures Act.  Notably, Judge Brown declined to take action with regard to the federal contractor EO, noting that Judge R. Stan Baker (a Trump appointee to the S.D. of Georgia) in Georgia v. Biden had previously enjoined the federal government from enforcing the vaccination mandate on a nationwide basis.

While Judge Brown’s decision in Feds for Medical Freedom v. Biden did not change the status of the federal contractor EO, on the same day, Judge Baker issued a new order with regard to the injunction he had put in place in Georgia v. Biden in December.  First, Judge Baker declined to address whether private federal contractors are enjoined from mutually agreeing with a federal agency to include COVID-19 safety clauses in their contracts; i.e., to voluntarily comply with the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) guidelines, as he viewed that as improperly seeking an advisory opinion while the case is pending on appeal.  But on the broader question as to the scope of his national injunction, on Friday he wrote: Continue reading