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

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

EPA RMP Public Hearing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Andrew Sommer and Megan Shaked

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

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

Background about the Proposed Permanent Rule

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

Update on the Timeline for OSHA to Finalize the Permanent COVID Rule for Healthcare

It’s been a while since our last update about OSHA’s rulemaking for the permanent COVID-19 rule for healthcare, which is very good news.  It was always a possibility that by the time OSHA got around to finalizing and issuing its permanent COVID-19 regulation that the pandemic would be in such a state that it would not make any practical, health, or political sense to actually issue the rule.  But that does not appear to be OSHA’s thinking right now, or the thinking of the DC Circuit and the nurses unions that continue to push OSHA to finalize the rule.

According to a sworn statement by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Doug Parker on July 25, 2022, OSHA remains “on track” to complete its long-term COVID-19 safety healthcare standard in September to October of 2022.  This is consistent with OSHA’s January 2022 statement that it intended to develop a permanent COVID-19 standard for healthcare workers within six to nine months.

Assistant Secretary Parker’s statement appears to be a reaction to inconsistent testimony from Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh before the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 15, 2022.  There, Secretary Walsh testified that OSHA would finalize the standard in three to six months, which sounded like a shift in OSHA’s target issuance date to later in the year or even next year.  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

OSHA Grants Request to Extend the Comment Period for the Proposed Amended E-Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn, Chair of CMC’s National OSHA Practice

On March 30th, OSHA published a proposal to dramatically expand the requirements of its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule (aka 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.

In short, the proposed changes to the E-Recordkeeping Rule would:

  1. Replace the current requirement for all workplaces with 250+ employees to annually submit to OSHA’s electronic Injury Tracking Application the data from their 300A Annual Summary of work-related injuries, with a new requirement for workplaces with 100+ employees in the “high hazard industries” listed in new Appendix B to submit the full panoply of OSHA recordkeeping records – i.e., OSHA Forms 300 (the OSHA Log), 301 (detailed incident reports for each recorded injury), and the 300A Annual Summary;
  2. Require workplaces with 20+ employees in another larger list of so-called “high-hazard industries” (new Appendix A) to submit the data from their 300As; and
  3. Compel all submitting employers to include their proper company name with the electronic data submissions.

That Federal Register Notice set the deadline for stakeholders to submit comments for Tuesday, May 31 — the day after Memorial Day and one week after the deadline to submit post-hearing comments about OSHA’s proposed Permanent COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare.  Because of that crowded schedule and the importance of the proposed changes to the E-Recordkeeping Rule, last week, on behalf of Conn Maciel Carey’s Employers E-Recordkeeping Rulemaking Coalition, we prepared and filed a Letter to OSHA Requesting an Extension of the Comment Period. Continue reading

OSHA Conducts Comprehensive Heat Illness Prevention Stakeholder Meeting

By Beeta B. Lashkari and Eric J. Conn

On Tuesday, May 3, 2022, OSHA held a virtual stakeholder meeting to discuss and receive public input about OSHA’s various initiatives designed to protect workers from heat-related hazards.  Below is a summary of the stakeholder meeting, as well as the comments we presented on behalf of our Employers Heat Illness Prevention Coalition.  If you would like to view the entire meeting, or view the agenda or some of the heat illness-related materials OSHA made available, they are available on OSHA’s Heat Forum Public Stakeholder Meeting website.

The meeting ran for approx. 6 hours (from noon to 6 PM).  More than 3,000 stakeholders signed up for the meeting, and more than 500 people requested to speak, including OSHA representatives, an OSHA leadership panel, and four batches of public comment.  Public commenters were each allotted a strictly enforced 3-minute window to speak.

Opening Remarks from Heads of DOL/OSHA

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Doug Parker, kicked off the meeting with opening remarks.  Mr. Parker began by explaining that heat-related hazards do not 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

Virginia OSHA Rescinds Its “Permanent” COVID-19 Rule and Introduces New Workplace Guidance

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Under the direction of then-Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, the Commonwealth of Virginia was the very first U.S. State to implement a broad, all-industry programmatic COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) way back in July 2020.  Through all the fits and starts with federal OSHA’s COVID-19 rulemaking, VOSH’s COVID-19 regulation was a consistent presence through most of the pandemic.  Indeed, that ETS was made “permanent” in January 2021, months before federal OSHA had even adopted its COVID-19 ETS for Healthcare.

However, on his first day in office – January 15, 2022 – new Virginia Governor Glenn Younkin signed an Executive Order directing the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board (“Board”) to determine whether there was a continuing need for these regulations (with more than a little pressure from the Governor’s office to conclude it was not).  Not surprisingly, under that political pressure, and in the wake of the Supreme Court’s harsh decision about federal OSHA’s authority to regulate COVID-19, by mid-February, the Board had adopted the position of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (“DOLI”) that “based on emerging scientific and medical evidence, [COVID-19] no longer constitute[s] a grave danger to employees in the workplace.”

That Board finding started a 30-day clock for public notice and comment about the Board’s intention to repeal the rule, and as expected, the Board voted on March 21st to rescind the ETS (effective March 23rd, 2022).

So where does that leave Virginia employers?  Continue reading

OSHA’s Rulemaking to Expand the Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn

Who else misses the time when OSHA would issue a new regulation only once every decade or so?!?!  Alas, OSHA has been quite busy the last few months on the rulemaking front, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.  You’ve heard a lot from us about the various COVID-19 rulemaking efforts – two emergency standards and a new effort to make permanent the COVID-19 standard for healthcare.  Now, OSHA has turned its attention to a more traditional OSHA subject – injury and illness recordkeeping.

Specifically, on March 30th, OSHA published a new proposed rule to dramatically expand the requirements of its Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule; i.e., the Electronic Recordkeeping Rule.

Background on OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Requirements

OSHA first issued regulations requiring that employers record occupational injuries and illnesses in 1971.  Pursuant to 29 CFR 1904.7, employers must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses that involve death, loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, or diagnosis of a significant injury or illness by a physician or other licensed health care professional.  Additional requirements were added for Reporting of Fatality and Multiple Hospitalization Incidents, and later, in 2014, OSHA expanded the types of incidents that had to be reported to OSHA; i.e., a single in-patient hospitalization, amputations, and losses of an eye. (79 FR 56130)

In 2016 (amended in 2018), annual electronic injury recordkeeping data submissions to OSHA became mandatory both for establishments with 250 or more employees, and establishments with 20-249 employees in certain designated industries.  The current version of the E-Recordkeeping Rule has undergone some changes and revisions, and indeed, as we have chronicled in the past,  the E-Recordkeeping Rule has had a long and tortured history.  Before promulgation of the E-Recordkeeping Rule, unless OSHA opened an enforcement inspection at an employer’s workplace or the Bureau of Labor Statistics requested an employer’s participation in its annual injury data survey, employer injury and illness recordkeeping data was maintained internally by employers. In a major policy shift, in 2016, President Obama’s OSHA enacted the E-Recordkeeping Rule, requiring hundreds of thousands of workplaces to proactively submit injury and illness data to OSHA through OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (“ITA”).  More specifically, the 2016 E-Recordkeeping Rule required: 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

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

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

OSHA’s 2021 Year in Review and 2022 Forecast [Webinar Recording]

On January 12, 2022, the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group on presented the kickoff event in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 OSHA Webinar series.  This first program of the year, as is tradition, was OSHA’s 2021 Year in Review and 2022 Forecast.

As we kickoff Year 2 of the Biden Administration, it is time to look back and take stock of what we learned from and about OSHA during the very eventful year that just concluded.  And more importantly, it is time to look ahead and assess what to expect from OSHA now that OSHA’s full senior leadership team is in place and ready to put its stamp on the agency.

In this webinar, the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group reviewed OSHA enforcement, rulemaking, and personnel developments from 2021. We also discussed the top OSHA issues employers should monitor and prepare for in the New Year.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading

[BREAKING] Supreme Court Reinstitutes a Stay of OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test ETS

By Eric J. Conn, Chair, OSHA Practice Group

After its normal release of opinions this morning that did not include a decision about whether to stay OSHA’s vaccinate-or-test ETS, this afternoon, at approximately 2:30 PM, the United States Supreme Court issued a per curiam decision reinstituting a stay of OSHA’s ETS.  Here is a link to the opinion of the Court.

A per curiam decisions is a court opinion issued in the name of the Court rather than specific judges, but it is certainly not an indication that the decision was unanimous or non-controversial, and in this instance, we know it was not that.  The decision was 6-3 with a concurrence by Justice Gorsuch (joined by Justices Thomas and Alito), and a joint dissent by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

What Was the Legal Basis for the Court’s Decision?

As we anticipated based on the tone of last week’s oral argument last week, the majority of the Court based its decision on the lack of an explicit enough delegation of authority from Congress for OSHA to issue a regulation of this significance and of an issue that is not unique to the workplace.  That rationale could have broader implications for OSHA’s regulatory reach than just this COVID-19 ETS (see heat illness):

“Although COVID–19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most. COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases. Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.”

Under this theory, the majority opinion indicates that Continue reading

[Webinar] OSHA’s 2021 Year in Review and 2022 Forecast

Join the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. ET, for the kickoff event in Conn Maciel Carey’s 2022 OSHA Webinar series.  This first program of the year, as is tradition, will be OSHA’s 2021 Year in Review and 2022 Forecast.

As we kickoff Year 2 of the Biden Administration, it is time to look back and take stock of what we learned from and about OSHA during the very eventful year that just concluded.  And more importantly, it is time to look ahead and assess what to expect from OSHA now that OSHA’s full senior leadership team is in place and ready to put its stamp on the agency.

In this webinar, the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group will review OSHA enforcement, rulemaking, and personnel developments from 2021. We will also discuss the top OSHA issues employers should monitor and prepare for in the New Year.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

The Supreme Court Heard Oral Argument in the Legal Challenges to OSHA’s Vaccinate-or-Test Emergency Rule

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

This morning, the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor and Ohio v. Dept. of Labor, the consolidated cases challenging the legality of OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing, and Face Coverings emergency temporary standard.  Specifically, the question before the Court today was whether the OSHA ETS should be stayed pending the merits adjudication pending before the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Although scheduled for just one hour, the argument in this rare OSHA case to appear before the Supreme Court lasted a little more than two full hours.

If you were not able to listen live this morning, here is a link to an audio recording on C-SPAN.  And here is a link to the transcript of the argument.

The Department of Labor was represented at argument by the Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar.  The lawyers representing the petitioners that are seeking an emergency stay of OSHA’s vaccinate-or-test ETS were:

  • Scott Keller from Lehotsky Keller LLP, representing National Federation of Independent Business and other industry associations; and
  • Benjamin Flowers, the Solicitor General of Ohio, representing Ohio and other petitioner states.

The Ohio Solicitor General, arguing against OSHA’s vaccinate-or-test ETS, appeared remotely for the argument because he tested positive for COVID-19, somewhat ironically, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s own testing mandate for lawyers who would appear in-person to argue before the Court.

Our very high level takeaway from the argument today, and based on the nature of the questions the various Justices asked and what we know about their jurisprudence, it seemed that the conservative majority of the Court Continue reading