OSHA’s “Look Back” Window to Issue Repeat Citations is Unlimited

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently issued an opinion granting OSHA the ultimate leeway to characterize citations as Repeat.  The case involved a Repeat excavation-related OSHA citation issued to Triumph Construction Corp. in 2014.  OSHA based the Repeat characterization on a prior violation of the same excavation standard confirmed against Triumph from 2009.

Triumph asserted to the OSHRC Administrative Law Judge and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that the Repeat citation was not appropriate because the amount of time that had passed from the original 2009 citation to the new 2014 alleged violation (nearly five years) was outside OSHA’s stated Repeat look-back policy in its Field Operations Manual.  The OSHA Field Operations Manual in effect in 2014 was the 2009 version, which provided for a three year look-back period to find prior violations to serve as the basis for a Repeat violation.

In a 2016 update to the Fields Operations Manual, the Obama Administration expanded the Repeat look-back period to five-years.  Regardless what the FOM said, the Triumph case implicated broader issues of whether OSHA’s policy created an strict statute of limitations for the Repeat look-back and whether OSHA has the authority, on a whim, to change enforcement policies like the Repeat look-back period without rulemaking or legislation.

The ALJ upheld the Repeat citation, and on appeal, the Second Circuit in Triumph Construction Corp. v. Sec. of Labor (Docket No. 16‐4128‐ag, March 14, 2018), held that because neither the OSH Act nor any regulations promulgated under the Act mandate or restrict any look-back time period for Repeat violations, OSHA was not bound by its own stated policy.  OSHA has the discretion, in other words, to search an employer’s citation history as far back as it wishes to identify any prior substantially similar violations to serve as the basis for a present “repeat” violation. Continue reading

Who is the New DOL Leadership Team Impacting OSHA Law? [Webinar Recording]

On March 20, 2018, Kate McMahon and Amanda Strainis-Walker, of the national OSHA Practice Group at Conn Maciel Carey, presented a webinar: “Who is the New DOL Leadership Team Impacting OSH Law?

Pres. Obama’s Secretary of Labor, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, and the rest of his political Leadership Team at the Department of Labor turned over the keys to the Trump Administration.  The Trump Administration has now installed, or at least announced, its own OSHA and OSHRC Leadership Team, and the backgrounds and regulatory philosophies between the outgoing and new decision makers and policymakers could not be more different.

During this webinar, participants learned about the new appointees who have taken (or should soon take) the reins at OSHA, and how this new Leadership Team will affect OSHA enforcement and rulemaking.  We also reviewed other personnel changes at OSHA and OSHRC that will impact the regulatory landscape for employers.

Click here to register to view and listen to a recording of the webinar. Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Compels Hospitality Employers to Clean Up Their Act, Ergonomically Speaking

By Aaron R. Gelb and Andrew J. Sommer

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the single most common type of work-related injury, but federal OSHA has struggled for decades to develop a coherent regulatory and/or enforcement strategy to address the hazards that cause these ergonomic injuries.  Where federal OSHA fell short, the State of California has picked up the slack, with Cal-OSHA recently finalizing a safety standard regarding Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention.  The standard, which will go into effect this summer applies to all lodging establishments that offer sleeping accommodations available to be rented by members of the public, and requires operators to develop, implement and maintain a written Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program tailored to hazards associated with housekeeping.

Background About Ergonomics

An ergonomic hazard is a physical factor within the work environment that has the potential to cause a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).  MSDs are injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system; i.e., muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, etc.  Common ergonomic hazards include repetitive movement, manual handling, workplace design, uncomfortable workstation height, and awkward body positioningThe most frequent ergonomic injuries (or musculoskeletal disorders) include muscle/tendon strains, sprains, and back pains, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Ruptured / Herniated Disc, etc., caused by performing the same motion over and over again (such as vacuuming), overexertion of physical force (lifting heavy objects), or working while in an awkward position (twisting your body to reach up or down to perform a work task).

MSDs are the single most common type of work related injury.  According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, MSDs alone account for nearly 30% of all worker’s compensation costs.  OSHA estimates that work-related MSDs in the U.S. alone account for over 600,000 injuries and illnesses (approx. 34% of all lost workdays reported to the BLS), and employers spend as much as $20 billion a year on direct costs for MSD-related injuries and up 5x that on indirect costs (e.g., lost productivity, hiring and training replacement workers, etc.).

Federal OSHA’s Ergonomics Enforcement Policy

Nevertheless, federal OSHA has been lost in the woods for years searching for a coherent ergonomics enforcement policy.  In the final days of the Clinton Administration in November 2000, federal OSHA promulgated an extremely controversial midnight Ergonomics Standard, requiring employers to take measures to curb ergonomic injuries in the workplace.  Continue reading

Unlock The Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Standard [Webinar Recording]

On February 20, 2018, Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb of the national OSHA Practice Group at Conn Maciel Carey presented a webinar: “Unlock The Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Standard.

OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout (Energy Control) Standard is always one of OSHA’s most frequently cited standards, and now, with the “Amputations National Emphasis Program” raging on into 2018, as well as LOTO violations continuing to be considered “high emphasis hazards” to qualify employers into the dreaded Severe Violator Enforcement Program, it is critical for employers to get Lockout/Tagout right.  While LOTO continues to be an important standard, it also continues to be one of the least understood standards.  This webinar will highlight the Top 10 most misunderstand and frequently cited aspects of the LOTO rule, and forecast some potential changes to the rule and OSHA’s enforcement of it.

During this webinar, participants learned: Continue reading

REMINDER: Feb. 1st Deadline to Certify and Post OSHA 300As: Four Common Mistakes Employers Make

By Eric J. Conn

This is your annual reminder about the important annual February 1st deadline to prepare, certify and post your OSHA 300A Annual Summary of workplace injuries and illnesses, for all U.S. employers, except those with ten or fewer employees or those whose NAICS code is for the set of low hazard industries exempted from OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping requirements, such as dental offices, advertising services, and car dealers (see the exempted industries at Appendix A to Subpart B of Part 1904).

This February 1 requirement to prepare, certify and post 300A forms should not be confused with OSHA’s new Electronic Recordkeeping Rule.  The February 1st deadline is only about the internal posting of 300A data for your employees’ eyes.  The E-Recordkeeping Rule, on the other hand, is a new requirement for certain employers to electronically submit data from their 300A Annual Summary forms to OSHA through a web portal.  Depending on how OSHA resolves an internal policy debate and the outcome of legal challenges from labor groups, that data may also be shared publicly.

By February 1st every year, employers must:

  • Review their OSHA 300 Log(s);
  • Verify the entries on the 300 Log are complete and accurate;
  • Correct any deficiencies identified on the 300 Log;
  • Use the injury data from the 300 Log to calculate an annual summary of injuries and illnesses and complete the 300A Annual Summary Form; and
  • Certify the accuracy of the 300 Log and the 300A Summary Form.

The Form 300A is a RK 2summation of the workplace injuries and illnesses recorded on the OSHA 300 Log during the previous calendar year, as well as the total hours worked that year by all employees covered by the particular OSHA 300 Log.

Four Common 300A Mistakes that Employers Make

We see employers make the following four common mistakes related to this annual injury and illness Recordkeeping duty: Continue reading

OSHA Civil Penalties On the Rise Again

By Dan C. Deacon and Eric J. Conn

As of January 2, 2018, civil penalties for workplace safety and health violations issued by federal OSHA increased again by 2% across the board.  Although a 2% increase does not shock the system, this increase is part of a program that has resulted in OSHA’s civil penalty authority nearly doubling since 2016.

History of Civil Penalty Adjustments

As I sit here this afternoon wondering if the government will shut down over disputes about immigration and healthcare, I am reminded of a time just a couple of years ago, in late 2015, when we were again on the verge of a government shutdown over abortion rights and deficit spending.  That shutdown was averted thanks to a backroom deal between outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner and President Obama, which ultimately took the form of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.  That “kick the can down the road” measure included a controversial statute that was essentially unknown (including by the folks within OSHA) and saw exactly zero seconds of debate on the floor.  It was called the “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act,” and it mandated that executive agencies increase their maximum civil penalty authority by the percent increase to the Consumer Price Index since the last time the agencies had raised their penalties.

On June 30, 2016, the Department of Labor issued its Interim Final Rule to implement the Civil Penalty Inflation directive.  OSHA’s civil penalty authority had been stagnant for as long as any other agency, not having been increased for 25 years (since 1990), so this “catch-up” penalty increase for OSHA was the most significant.  Indeed, following the formula included in the statute, OSHA was required to increase its penalties on August 1, 2016 by the same percentage increase as the growth from the 1990 Consumer Price Index – Urban (CPI-U) to the October 2015 CPI-U, which was nearly 80%:

In addition to the one-time 80% “catch up” increase that went into effect on August 1, 2016, OSHA’s Interim Final Rule, the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act also required Continue reading

Conn Maciel Carey Opens Chicago Office with Prominent OSHA and Labor Lawyers Aaron Gelb and Mark Trapp

Washington, D.C.-based OSHA and Labor & Employment law firm Conn Maciel Carey LLP is pleased to announce the launch of a Midwest Office in Chicago, IL and the addition of two prominent Chicago attorneys – Aaron R. Gelb and Mark M. Trapp.

“We are thrilled not only to expand the Firm’s national footprint to the Midwest, but especially to be doing so with such great lawyers as Aaron and Mark,” said Bryan Carey, the firm’s managing partner.  “This move will enable us to better serve our existing national platform of clients, and will strengthen the firm’s specialty focus on Labor & Employment and Workplace Safety Law.  We look forward to bringing Aaron and Mark on board, as they will add depth to all areas of the firm’s practice, including OSHA, litigation and labor counseling on behalf of our management clients.”

Mr. Gelb, former Labor & Employment Shareholder and head of the OSHA Practice at Vedder Price PC, in its Chicago office, represents employers in all aspects of the employer-employee relationship.  Aaron’s practice has a particular emphasis on advising and representing clients in relation to inspections, investigations, and enforcement actions involving federal OSHA and state OSH programs, and managing the full range of litigation against OSHA.

“Aaron and I share the same vision of how we want to practice law and do business, thus entrusting him with the keys to our new Chicago office, and combining our expertise, talent, and resources together made so much sense,” said Eric J. Conn, Chair of the firm’s national OSHA practice“We look forward to partnering with Aaron to build a solid brand for our Midwest practice among our client base and doing what we know best, providing top-notch service and excellent value to clients.”

Aaron also has extensive experience litigating equal employment opportunity matters in federal and state courts having tried a number of cases to verdict and defending employers before the EEOC as well as fair employment agencies across the country.  In the past 5 years alone, Aaron has successfully handled more than 250 discrimination charges.

Mr. Gelb said “I am incredibly excited to join what I believe to be the country’s leading OSHA practice as the experience and expertise of the Conn Maciel team will enable me to enhance the workplace safety legal support I currently provide to my clients in the Midwest and beyond.  I’ve known Eric for years and have great respect for what he and his colleagues have accomplished in the OSH field.  At the same time, Kara’s employment defense group fits perfectly with my practice as we share a common client-focused philosophy and deep experience in many of the same industries.  While leaving Vedder Price after nearly 20 years was not an easy decision, I simply could not pass up the opportunity to partner with two dynamic attorneys that so perfectly complement the dual aspects of my practice.”

Mr. Trapp joins the firm with seventeen years of experience, during which he has represented employers in all types of labor disputes, from union campaigns and collective bargaining to grievances and arbitrations. Mr. Trapp has defended employers before administrative agencies and in litigation brought under the ADA, ADEA, Title VII and other federal anti-discrimination laws.

Mr. Trapp said “I am thrilled to again have the opportunity to work with the top-notch legal professionals at Conn Maciel Carey.” According to Mr. Trapp, the expertise of a boutique firm focused on OSHA and other labor and employment matters “complements my experience handling labor and employment issues. I look forward to helping strengthen the team’s ability to provide exceptional knowledge and insights to labor and employment clients, and expanding the firm’s presence in the Midwest.”

Mr. Trapp is perhaps best known as a leading authority on multi-employer pension withdrawal liability.  Continue reading

OSHA’s 2017 in Review and a 2018 Forecast [Webinar Recording]

On January 16, 2018 Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding: “OSHA’s 2017 in Review and a 2018 Forecast.

The ball has dropped, the confetti has been swept out of Times Square, and 2017 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, the question on everyone’s mind (well, maybe just OSHA nerds like us), is what can we expect from OSHA in the first full year of the Trump Administration?

In this webinar event, attorneys from the national OSHA Practice Group at Conn Maciel Carey reviewed OSHA enforcement, rulemaking, and other developments from 2017, and discussed the Top 10 OSHA Issues employers should monitor and prepare for in the New Year.  During this webinar, participants learned:

  • 2017 OSHA enforcement data and trends, and the future of OSHA enforcement
  • The Top 10 OSHA issues employers should track in 2018
  • Rulemaking and de-regulatory developments and predictions
  • Status/future of the roll-out of Pres. Trump’s De-Regulatory Agenda
  • Other significant OSHA policy issues to track in the New Year

Click here to to view a recording of the webinar. Continue reading

OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Deadline Extended Again – Stroke of Midnight December 31, 2017

By Eric J. Conn

The December 15, 2017 deadline for large employers and small employers in certain “high hazard industries” to submit injury and illness data to OSHA has just passed, but it is not too late to submit injury data without being cited by OSHA for missing the deadline.  OSHA announced today that will continue to accept employers’ 300A annual summary injury data for calendar year 2016 through the agency’s new Injury Tracking Application (ITA) (the portal that will receive the injury data) until midnight on December 31, 2017, and will not take any enforcement action against those employers who submit data between now and then, even though the submissions would technically be late.  Beginning January 1, 2018, the portal will no longer accept 2016 data.

We have closely tracked the Trump Administration’s treatment of OSHA’s new E-Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule, and while there have been plenty of signals that this rule is due for an overhaul, or even possibly to be rescinded entirely, no such action was taken to interfere with the first required data submission, other than to extend the deadline from this summer to December 15th, and now to December 31st, for all intents and purposes.

Therefore, if employers missed the deadline, they should immediately evaluate whether the rule applies to any or all of their workplaces, get familiar with and set up an account in OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application, and submit covered injury data (i.e., their 2016 OSHA 300A Annual Summary data) by December 31, 2017.

Background about the Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

Historically, 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, employers’ Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Logs and related forms remained strictly in-house. Employers kept the data and their OSHA logs in their HR or Safety Department office, posted them internally for employees to view for a couple of months each year, used the data themselves to make decisions about how to reduce risks of injuries and illnesses in their workplaces, and then stored the records in a cabinet or desk drawer for five years.  Now, OSHA’s new rule requires hundreds of thousands of employers to proactively submit these historically private records to OSHA, which in turn may publish the data online for all the world to see.

Key Changes in OSHA’s New Recordkeeping Rule:

  1. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain so-called “high hazard industries” must each year submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries only.
  2. All establishments with 250 or more employees (in industries not exempt from keeping injury logs) must submit to OSHA annually their injury and illness data from their OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Incident Reports, and 300A Annual Summaries. In this first year of the rule, however, for 2016 injury data to be submitted in calendar year 2017, all employers, irrespective of size, are only required to submit 300A Annual Summary data.
  3. The submissions to OSHA must be made electronically, via a purportedly secure web portal.
  4. OSHA stated its original intent was to publish the data online, likely in a manner that is sortable, searchable, filterable, and as embarrassing to employers as possible. It is unclear whether the Trump Administration will publish the data, but the records may nonetheless be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests by plaintiffs’ attorneys, the media, union organizers, and competitors, to use the data in a variety of ways to harm employers.

Deadline to Submit Data – A Moving Target

The deadline to submit data has been a moving topic and source of uncertainty since the Trump Administration took the reins at OSHA.  Continue reading

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s 2018 OSHA Webinar Series

The Trump Administration has taken the reins at OSHA, and the first year of the new OSHA’s enforcement and regulatory (or de-regulatory) agenda is in the books.  We have already seen significant changes in the way OSHA does business and the tools available to the Agency in its toolkit.  Now, as the new Administration finishes filling out the OSHA leadership team with its own appointees, we are sure to see shifting of enforcement priorities, budgets and policies, and an amplified effort to repeal or re-interpret controversial Obama-era OSHA rules and policies.  Accordingly, it is critical to stay abreast of OSHA developments.

Conn Maciel Carey’s complimentary 2018 OSHA Webinar Series, presented by the firm’s national OSHA Practice Group, is designed to give employers insight into changes and developments at OSHA during this period of flux.

To register for an individual webinar, click the link below the program description.  To register for the entire 2018 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will register you.  If you missed any programs from prior years, here is a link to an archive of recordings of those webinars.


OSHA’s 2017 in Review & 2018 Forecast

Tuesday, January 16th

New Cal/OSHA Enforcement Issues

Tuesday, July 10th

Unlock the Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Standard

Tuesday, February 20th

Future of OSHA’s Policy
of Public Shaming

Tuesday, August 21st

OSHA’s New Leadership Team

Tuesday, March 20th

Walking/Working Surfaces Update

Tuesday, September 18th

OSHA’s New Silica & Beryllium Rules

Tuesday, April 17th

Repeat, Willful & Egregious CiTations

Tuesday, October 16th

OSHA’s New E-Recordkeeping
and Anti-Retaliation Rule

Tuesday, May 5th

 Process Safety Update:
OSHA PSM and EPA RMP

Tuesday, November 13th

Joint- and Multi-Employers,
Contractors and Temps

Tuesday, June 5th

OSHA and the ADA: How Two
Labor Laws Align and Diverge

Tuesday, December 4th

See below for descriptions of the webinars and registration links

Continue reading

OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule [Webinar Recording]

On December 12, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Micah Smith of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding “OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule.”

Following the tragic West Fertilizer explosion in 2013, then-Pres. Obama issued an Executive Order directing OSHA, EPA and other agencies to “modernize” how the government regulates chemical manufacturing.  In response, OSHA and EPA took sweeping actions, from rulemaking and interpretation letters to overhaul the PSM and RMP regulatory landscape, to new enforcement initiatives, like a the Chemical Facilities and Petroleum Refineries PSM National Emphasis Program.  When Pres. Trump took office, several key process safety and environmental regulations were delayed or repealed, new political leadership was installed, and enforcement policies were reexamined.  This webinar will review the status and likely future of OSHA’s PSM and EPA’s RMP regulatory programs.

During this webinar, participants learned:

Continue reading

Status of OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule – 1st Deadline (Dec. 15) to Submit Injury Data is Upon Us

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

The December 15, 2017 deadline for large employers and small employers in certain “high hazard industries” to submit injury and illness data to OSHA is less than a month away.  We have been tracking closely the Trump Administration’s treatment of OSHA’s new E-Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule, and while there have been plenty of signals that this rule is due for an overhaul, or even possibly to be rescinded, it appears that the initial data submission deadline of December 15th is going to stand.

Therefore, if employers have not already done so, they should immediately evaluate whether the rule applies to any or all of their workplaces, get familiar with and set up an account in OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (the portal that will receive the injury data), and submit covered injury data (i.e., their 2016 OSHA 300A Annual Summary data) by December 15, 2017.

Background about the Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

Historically, 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, employers’ Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Logs and related forms remained strictly in-house. Employers kept the data and their OSHA logs in their HR or Safety Department office, posted them internally for employees to view for a couple of months each year, used the data themselves to make decisions about how to reduce risks of injuries and illnesses in their workplaces, and then stored the records in a cabinet or desk drawer for five years.  Now, OSHA’s new rule requires hundreds of thousands of employers to proactively submit these historically private records to OSHA, which in turn may publish the data online for all the world to see.

Key Changes in OSHA’s New Recordkeeping Rule:

  1. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain so-called “high hazard industries” must each year submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries only.
  2. All establishments with 250 or more employees (in industries not exempt from keeping injury logs) must submit to OSHA annually their injury and illness data from their OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Incident Reports, and 300A Annual Summaries. In this first year of the rule, however, for 2016 injury data to be submitted in calendar year 2017, all employers, irrespective of size, are only required to submit 300A Annual Summary data.
  3. The submissions to OSHA must be made electronically, via a purportedly secure web portal.
  4. OSHA stated its original intent was to publish the data online, likely in a manner that is sortable, searchable, filterable, and as embarrassing to employers as possible. It is unclear whether the Trump Administration will publish the data, but the records may nonetheless be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests by plaintiffs’ attorneys, the media, union organizers, and competitors, to use the data in a variety of ways to harm employers.

Deadline to Submit Data – A Moving Target

The deadline to submit data has been a moving topic and source of uncertainty since the Trump Administration took the reins at OSHA.  Continue reading

State Plan Implementation of OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Data Submission Rule

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

OSHA’s Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) requires employers of  certain sizes that fall into certain categories to proactively submit electronic injury and illnesses data to OSHA through its new web portal – the “Injury Tracking Application.”  The new rule dramatically changes the responsibilities and impacts of OSHA’s long-standing injury and illness recordkeeping program.RK Fact Sheet

Historically, unless OSHA opened an enforcement inspection at an employer’s workplace or the Bureau of Labor Statistics requested an employer to participate in its annual injury data survey, employers’ OSHA 300 Logs and related forms remained strictly in-house. Employers kept the data and their OSHA logs in their HR or Safety Department office, posted them internally for employees to view for a couple of months, used the data themselves to make decisions about how to reduce risk of injury and illness in their workplaces, and then stored the records in a cabinet or desk drawer for five years.  Now, OSHA’s new rule requires hundreds of thousands of employers to proactively submit these historically private records to OSHA, which in turn may publish the data online for all the world to see.

Key Changes in OSHA’s New Recordkeeping Rule

  1. All establishments with 250 or more employees (in industries not exempt from keeping injury logs) must submit to OSHA annually their injury and illness data from their OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Incident Reports, and 300A Annual Summaries.
  2. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain so-called “high hazard industries” must each year submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries only.
  3. All of the submissions to OSHA must be made electronically, via a purportedly secure website.
  4. OSHA stated its original intent was to publish the data online, likely in a manner that is sortable, searchable, filterable, and as embarrassing to employers as possible.

Note however, in this first year of the rule, for the upcoming data submission of 2016 injury data to be made in calendar year 2017, all employers, irrespective of size, are only required to submit 300A Annual Summary data.

Deadline to Submit Data – A Moving Target

The deadline to submit data has been a topic of discussion, and there remains some uncertainty whether employers will be required to electronically submit injury and illness data.  Continue reading

OSHA’s Fatality, Hospitalization & Amputation Reporting Rule: Lessons Learned [Webinar Recording]

On November 14, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. DiSalvo of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding “OSHA’s Fatality, Hospitalization & Amputation Reporting Rule.

In former President Obama’s second term, his Administration rolled-out a major change to OSHA’s Fatality & Significant Injury Reporting Rule.  Not to be confused with the new Electronic Recordkeeping Rule (which requires certain employers to submit injury and illness data to OSHA on annual basis), this amended rule required all employers to make prompt phone calls to OSHA when work related fatalities or covered in-patient hospitalizations and amputations occur.

The rule has resulted in thousands more reports of incidents to OSHA than before.  Now, three years into the new reporting scheme, we have learned a lot of lessons about what is being reported to OSHA, what non-mandatory reports are often made, and what OSHA is doing with all the new reported incidents.

During this webinar, participants learned:

Continue reading

Trump Announces Nomination of Scott Mugno to Lead OSHA as Assistant Secretary of Labor

By Eric J. Conn

After months of rumors and speculation, this morning, October 30, 2017, the White House finally announced its choice for the role of Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.  I am personally very pleased that nomination was Scott A. Mugno.

Scott presently serves as the Vice President of Safety, Vehicle Maintenance, and Sustainability for FedEx Ground.  In that position, he has been in charge of the safety and health mission for an organization with nearly 90,000 workers, across more than 588 workplaces, and a fleet of more than 58,000 trailers.  He has an impeccable reputation in the safety space as a great leader, a tremendous motivator for safety, a faithful believer in the safety mission, and a true safety professional.  For the past six years, Mr. Mugno has successfully curated FedEx Ground’s core principle of “Safety Above All,” which means that:

“no package [FedEx] could ever carry is worth jeopardizing the safety of one employee.”

The White House touted Scott’s qualifications for the position of OSHA’s chief administrator in a press release announcing his nomination:

“His responsibilities in both [of his Safety leadership positions at FedEx] included developing, promoting and facilitating the safety and health program and culture. Mr. Mugno was twice awarded FedEx’s highest honor, the FedEx Five Star Award, for his safety leadership….”

Scott has been a friend and professional associate for many years, and I believe his diverse background puts him in a unique position to be a dynamic and successful leader at OSHA.  In his current job, Scott is a Corporate Safety Director.  Previous to his FedEx Ground position, Scott was the Corporate Safety Director at FedEx Express in Memphis.  Prior to that, he had been a practicing regulatory attorney for both private employers and law firms.  Before that, he spent six years serving our nation as an attorney in the Army JAG corps.  The combination of all of these past experiences puts Scott in a unique position to successfully execute OSHA’s safety mission.

OSHA’s chief administrator has typically come from the ranks of other government roles, academia, or private law firms.  In OSHA’s history, rarely has the agency been led by someone who has served as Continue reading

Reporting In-Patient Hospitalizations to OSHA: Common Misunderstandings and Mistakes

By Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. DiSalvo

The regulatory requirement at 29 C.F.R. 1904.39, OSHA’s Fatality and Serious Injury Reporting Rule, which requires employers to report to OSHA certain in-patient hospitalizations, may seem straightforward, but there are several nuances employers routinely miss that affect the determination whether a hospitalization is actually reportable to OSHA.

Although failing to timely report a reportable hospitalization can be cited, and could set up an employer for costly Repeat violations, over-reporting has its own significant consequences.  Reporting hospitalizations very often triggers an on-site enforcement inspection, and OSHA issues a citation at least 75% of the time it conducts an inspection (an even higher percentage for incident inspections).  Moreover, at least 85% of OSHA citations are characterized as Serious, Repeat or Willful, and OSHA’s civil penalty authority has skyrocketed by 80% in the past two years.  Accordingly, it is critical that employers understand the intricacies of what makes an employee’s visit to the hospital a reportable event, and conversely, what does not, so as to avoid unnecessary and costly reports to OSHA.

As we outlined in a prior article discussing OSHA’s updated Fatality and Serious Injury Reporting Rule, under the current reporting requirements, employers must:

“within 24 hours after the in-patient hospitalization of one or more employees [that occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident] . . . report the in-patient hospitalization . . . to OSHA.”

This is a significant change from the prior reporting rule, which required a report to OSHA only if three or more employees were hospitalized overnight.  It was extraordinarily rare that a single workplace incident resulted in the overnight hospitalization of three or more workers, and so the instances of reporting under that rule were infrequent.  The new rule, however, requires a report to OSHA for the hospitalization of a single employee, which has opened the door to thousands more incidents that must be evaluated for possible reporting.

Although the current regulation has increased the number of employee hospitalizations that are being reported to OSHA, many of those incidents reported to OSHA did not actually meet the criteria for reporting, based on a very particular definition of hospitalization and a limited time period for when the hospitalization must occur.  In other words, many incidents are being reported to OSHA (effectively inviting OSHA to conduct a site enforcement inspection) that should not have been reported at all. Continue reading

[Webinar] Addressing Employee Complaints: Whistleblower Claims and OSHA Notices of Hazards

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 1:00 PM Eastern, join Kara Maciel, Amanda Walker, and Dan Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national Labor & Employment Practice and OSHA Practice, for a complimentary webinar regarding “Addressing Employee Complaints: Whistleblower / Retaliation Claims and OSHA Notices of Alleged Hazards.”

OSHA whistleblower complaints have been on the rise, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission receives more charges of retaliation than any other type of claim for the statutes they regulate, including Title VII discrimination.

It is essential for employers to develop, maintain, and evaluate their employee complaint policy and procedure to foster a supportive work environment and address employee issues before they turn into a regulatory issue or the basis for litigation.  As part of this complaint policy, employers must also ensure their management representatives understand how to effectively interact with a complaining employee after a grievance has been communicated, including dealing with performance issues in a manner that makes clear any adverse employment action is distinct from the employee’s complaint.

During this webinar, participants will learn:

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The Latest on OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule [Webinar Recording]

On September 12, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding the Latest on OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping and Anti-Retaliation Rule.

OSHA’s controversial Electronic Injury and Illness Recordkeeping data submission rule, along with new Anti-Retaliation elements, has thus far survived a barrage of negative stakeholder comments during the rulemaking, multiple enforcement deferrals and delays of effective dates, and legal challenges complete with preliminary injunction motions.  As of today, all elements of the rule are still in effect, including limits on post-injury drug testing and safety incentive programs, and barring a change before December 1, 2017, hundreds of thousands of workplaces will, for the first time, submit injury and illness recordkeeping data to OSHA, possibly for publishing online.

During this webinar, participants learned:

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OSHA Status of Pres. Trump’s Agenda for the “Deconstruction of the Administrative State” [Webinar Recording]

On August 15, 2017, Kathryn M. McMahon, Amanda Strainis-Walker, and Micah Smith of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice, presented a webinar regarding the OSHA Status of Pres. Trump’s Agenda for the “Deconstruction of the Administrative State”

President Trump was carried to the White House on promises (or threats) of rolling back government regulations.  At the CPAC conference this year, Pres. Trump’s Sr. Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon, framed much of Trump’s agenda with the phrase, “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of regulations and taxes that the president says have stymied economic growth.  OSHA regulations are apparently at the heart of this deconstruction.  Now, only half a year into the Trump Administration, we have seen significant changes to the OSHA regulatory landscape.  This webinar will take a deep dive into the actions taken by the Trump Administration in conjunction with the Republican Congress to roll-back OSHA regulations or otherwise lessen the punitive influence of OSHA on our nation’s employers.  From the repeal of several Obama-era midnight rules, to a budget proposal that could gut OSHA’s enforcement efforts, to a series of Executive Orders that shift to a business friendly regulatory agenda.

This webinar addressed:

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Trump Admin. Pumps the Brakes on New OSHA Rules in its First Regulatory Agenda

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

President Trump was carried to the White House on promises (or threats) of rolling back government regulations.  At the CPAC conference this year, Pres. Trump’s Sr. Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon, framed Pres. Trump’s agenda with the phrase: “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of regulations the President believes have stymied economic growth. OSHA regulations are apparently at the heart of this deconstruction.  Now, only half a year into the Trump Administration, we have seen significant changes to the OSHA regulatory landscape, from the Congressional Review Act repeal of Obama-era midnight rules, to a budget proposal that could shrink OSHA’s enforcement efforts and prioritize compliance assistance, to a series of Executive Orders that shift OSHA to a business friendly regulatory philosophy.

And now, the Trump Administration has issued its first “Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions,” and the path to “deconstruction of the administrative state” is clearer.  The spring Unified Regulatory Agenda explains what agencies like OSHA and EPA will undertake on the rulemaking front, and the shift in the Dept. of Labor’s regulatory agenda for rules and standards affecting workplace safety is more pronounced than ever.  The new Regulatory Agenda places a bevy of Obama-era regulatory priorities out in the cold.  Among them, new standards to address infectious diseases in healthcare, various chemical exposures, and other broad-based initiatives have been canceled or placed on the regulatory back burner.

Here’s a breakdown of what Pres. Trump’s first Regulatory Agenda reveals about OSHA’s future plans:

Controversial Rules Off the Table

To the relief of industry advocates who spent years wringing their hands over OSHA’s aggressive rulemaking agenda during the Obama Administration, the new Administration put many of the Agency’s previous plans on ice.  This set of rules will not see further action for years.

For example, a comprehensive rule addressing combustible dust, which has been in the works for nearly a decade, is off the table. This rulemaking was spurred by a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board, and was pursued by top officials in the Obama-era OSHA.  The Trump Administration has removed it from the Regulatory Agenda.

Here are some of the higher profile OSHA rulemaking efforts that are now effectively dead in the water: Continue reading

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

On July 11, 2017 attorneys from Conn Maciel Carey’s national Labor & Employment Practice and OSHA Practice, delivered a webinar regarding Joint and Multi-Employer, Independent Contractor, and Temp Worker Employment Law and OSHA Issues.”

Employers’ perceptions about their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality.  Although an employer may classify workers as temporary workers or independent contractors, that does not mean the Department of Labor takes the same view.  At the tail end of the Obama Administration, DOL was vocal about its belief that most workers should be treated as employees, insinuating that in most cases, employers will be accountable for the specific obligations of an employer-employee relationship.  The Trump Administration is moving in the other direction, but a lot of questions remain unanswered or muddled.  DOL has also been cracking down on employee misclassification and division of responsibility among multiple employers. Additionally, employers continue to have certain safety and health related obligations and potential OSHA liability depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or in joint employer situations.

It is essential for employers to carefully evaluate the employment relationship and their own individual function in the multi-employer context.

This webinar covered:

  • Criteria used to evaluate the employer-employee relationship
  • Employers roles on a multi-employer worksite and the specific obligations associated with each role
  • Guidance on how to clearly establish an independent contractor relationship
  • How to lawfully and effectively manage temporary workers at your workplace

Here is a link to a recording of the webinar. Continue reading

Unions Leverage OSHA and other Dept. of Labor Enforcement as an Organizing Tactic

By Kara M. Maciel, Eric J. Conn & Lindsay A. DiSalvo

As the private sector continues to see a decline in labor union membership among employees, labor unions are struggling to remain relevant and recruit new, dues-paying members.  Traditionally, when a labor union begins an organizing campaign at a workplace, the federal agency at the center of the process is the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”).  The NLRB’s purpose is to protect the rights of workers to organize and to freely choose whether or not to be represented by a labor union.  Indeed, the NLRB is an intrinsic part of the election process, and the NLRB may also become involved in a union organizing campaign if, for instance, the union asserts that the employer has committed an unfair labor practice.

However, unions are more and more often engaging with or depending on the regulations of other federal agencies as a tactic to gain leverage during organizing campaigns.  There are numerous ways a union may influence the outcome of an organizing campaign by using federal agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) or the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) of the Department of Labor (“DOL”), to persuade employees to embrace the union, or to put pressure on employers to concede to union representation.

Taking OSHA as an example, an on-site workplace safety inspection, or even just the threat of an inspection, can impact an organizing campaign in a manner favorable for the union.  The threat of making an OSHA complaint or inviting OSHA into the workplace to conduct an inspection can put pressure on an employer to stand-down against a union’s organizing efforts, even if it does not believe a particular violative condition or safety hazard exists.  A safety complaint could spark an OSHA inspection and, with 75% of all OSHA inspections resulting in the issuance of at least one citation, the chances are high that the employer would have an OSHA enforcement action on its hands. Continue reading

“Masters of Disaster” Podcast re: Managing OSHA Compliance in the Trump Administration

In May 2017, Eric J. Conn sat down with Leona Lewis, Founder of ComplyEthic, to discuss the regulatory landscape at OSHA as we transition from Obama to Trump, and what employers should do to successfully navigate the new regulatory landscape, for a new segment on ComplyEthic’s terrific Podcast – “Masters of Disaster.”  Here is a link to the interview on the podcast.

Masters of DisasterThe Podcast segment was entitled “OSHA Regulation Under Trump Administration; What Companies Can Do,” and featured discussion about the differences in priority and approach between Obama’s and Trump’s OSHA, new regulatory strategies that may be available to employers, and what steps employers should take to prepare for and manage the new regulatory environment.

OSHA Interpretations and Variances: Regulatory Strategies Revived in a Trump Admin. [Webinar Recording]

On June 6, 2017, Eric J. Conn and Kate M. McMahon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding OSHA Interpretations and Variances: Regulatory Strategies Resurrected in a Trump Administration.

A new world order has taken hold in Washington, DC, and with it, we expect OSHA to be much more open to employers’ views about the regulatory landscape. Employers may now have an opportunity to obtain favorable OSHA interpretations of existing regulations, and historically rare Variances.

This webinar reviewed the regulatory strategies that had been effectively foreclosed during the Obama Administration, but which may now reemerge, allowing employers to craft practical solutions to regulatory burdens while continuing to keep workers safe.

Participants in this webinar learned about the following:

  • The process OSHA follows to develop and issue letters of interpretation of its regulations and how to influence that process
  • Strategies for advanced groundwork to maximize the likelihood of favorable regulatory interpretations
  • How and when to apply for and obtain regulatory variances
  • How to insulate your company from legal exposure when engaging with OSHA about regulatory interpretations and variances

Here is a link to a recording of the webinar. Continue reading

OSHA Indefinitely Delays E-Recordkeeping Data Submission Requirements

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

In the final year of the Obama Administration, OSHA published a controversial amendment to its Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Rule known as the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” RuleAs published last year, the new Final Rule significantly changed employers’ obligations under OSHA’s recordkeeping scheme.  Among other hotly contested provisions, the new rule would require employers, beginning July 1, 2017, to proactively submit their employee injury and illness recordkeeping data to OSHA, so that OSHA could publish the data for all the world to see.

In a dramatic, but not unexpected, move last week, OSHA suspended this controversial data submission requirement with no word on when – or whether – a new deadline would be set for the data submission.

Telltale signs that the new Administration was rethinking the data collection requirement, and especially the plan to publish data, were clear well before last week.  OSHA stated at the time the rule was published in May 2016 that it would develop a secure portal into which employers would submit the data, and that the portal would be live by February 2017, well in advance of the July 1st data submission deadline.  We understand the development of the database was completed, and learned that OSHA beta-tested the portal with the help of a few major national employers and employer organizations.

Nevertheless,  Winter and Spring came and went with no public sign of the secure data portal, or update from OSHA about how precisely the database would function or when it would go live.  Since we are so close to the July 1st submission deadline and still no database with which employers could begin to get familiar, it was not surprising that on May 17th, OSHA updated its website to officially announce a reprieve from the looming July 1st deadline, stating:

OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time, and intends to propose extending the July 1, 2017 date by which certain employers are required to submit the information from their completed 2016 Form 300A electronically. Updates will be posted to this webpage when they are available.

Our expectation is that the new Administration will Continue reading