Cal/OSHA Guidance Regarding COVID-19 in the Workplace

By Andrew Sommer, Megan Shaked, and Beeta Lashkari

Last week, Cal/OSHA updated its website, providing additional guidance on how to protect Californian employee from spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.  Additionally, earlier this week, Division Chief Doug Parker sent an unpublished letter, clarifying Cal/OSHA’s recording/reporting requirements for coronavirus-related illnesses.  Below is a summary of both pieces of guidance from Cal/OSHA:

Additional Cal/OSHA Guidance on COVID-19 in the Workplace

Starting with the new guidance on its website, Cal/OSHA provided additional information on how to protect workers from COVID-19.  While Cal/OSHA previously issued guidance on requirements under its Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (“ATD”) standard specific to COVID-19, as well as general guidelines, it has now released industry-specific guidance and ATD model plans.  The industry-specific guidance includes:

The ATD model plans are fillable pages provided in Word format and include an exposure control plan, laboratory biosafety plan, and “referring employer” model written program.

Picture1As general guidance, Cal/OSHA’s website also includes interim guidelines for general industry on COVID-19.  These interim guidelines make clear that, for employers covered by the ATD standard, employers must protect employees from airborne infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and pathogens transmitted by aerosols.  The ATD standard applies to:

  1. hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, clinics, medical offices, outpatient medical facilities, home health care, long-term health care facilities, hospices, medical outreach services, medical transport and emergency medical services;
  2. certain laboratories, public health services and police services that are reasonably anticipated to expose employees to an aerosol transmissible disease;
  3. correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and drug treatment programs; and
  4. any other locations when Cal/OSHA informs employers in writing that they must comply with the ATD standard.

Additionally, for employers NOT covered by the ATD standard, Cal/OSHA advises employers to Continue reading

BREAKING – CSB Issues Final Accidental Release Reporting Rule

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta Lashkari

Last week, on the day of a federal district court-mandated deadline — Wednesday, February 5, 2020 — the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (the CSB) announced its Final Rule on Accidental Release Reporting. The CSB posted a prepublication version of the Final Rule last week, on February 5th.  The official version should be published in the Federal Register within the next few days.

As we previously reported, on December 12, 2019, the CSB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for its new reporting rule, which set out the circumstances when facility owners and operators are required to file reports with the CSB about certain accidental chemical releases and what must be communicated in the reports.Picture1

As stated in the NPRM, the purpose of the rule is “to ensure that the CSB receives rapid, accurate reports of any accidental release that meets established statutory criteria.”

The rule 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.  The specific information required to be provided in the accidental release report includes:

  1. A brief description of the accidental release;
  2. Whether the release resulted in a fire, explosion, death, serious injury, or property damage;
  3. The number of fatalities and/or serious injuries, and the estimated property damage at or outside the stationary source;
  4. The name of the material involved;
  5. The amount of the release; and
  6. Whether the accidental release resulted in an evacuation order impacting members of the general public and other details associated with the evacuation.

Issuance of the CSB’s reporting rule has been a long time coming.  Although the CSB did not become operational until 1998, its enabling legislation – the Clean Air Act Amendments – was enacted in 1990.  That statute, from nearly thirty years ago, expressly required the agency to issue a rule governing the reporting of accidental releases to the CSB.  Although the CSB submitted an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Chemical Release Reporting in 2009, that effort died on the vine.  Accordingly, the CSB has never had its own reporting rule, relying instead on other sources to receive incident information.  In February 2019, however, Continue reading

How Employers Should Respond to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

By Kara M. Maciel and Beeta B. Lashkari

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“2019-nCoV” or “coronavirus”) is a respiratory illness that, with its spread to the United States, is raising important issues for employers.  This guide explains the outbreak, the legal implications of it, and how employers should be responding now to employees who might have the virus, are caring for affected family members, or are otherwise concerned about their health in the workplace.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

First detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, 2019-nCoV is a respiratory virus reportedly linked to a large outdoor seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.  However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.  At this time, it is unclear how easily the virus is spreading between people.  Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and the general feeling of being unwell.  The incubation period is approximately 14 days, during which time an individual may see no symptoms but may still be contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reports that an ongoing investigation to determine more about this outbreak is underway, that the situation is rapidly evolving, and that more information will be provided as it becomes available.

As of January 30, 2020, there have been approximately 8,100 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in many countries, including in the United States.  On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”  On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the United States to aid the country’s healthcare community in responding to 2019-nCoV.  Additionally, on the same day, the President of the United States signed a presidential “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

Legal Implications for Employers

With the presence of coronavirus in the United States, employers must be vigilant in complying with the various labor and employment laws implicated by the virus.

Continue reading

CSB Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for New Accidental Release Reporting Rule

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta B. Lashkari

Earlier this week, on December 12, 2019, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for its long-awaiting chemical incident reporting rule, which sets out the circumstances when facility owners and operators are required to file reports with the CSB of accidental chemical releases and what must be communicated in the reports.

As stated in the NPRM, the purpose of the rule is “to ensure that the CSB receives rapid, accurate reports of any accidental release that meets established statutory criteria.”

If promulgated, the rule would require owners and operators of stationary sources (chemical facilities) to report  accidental releases that result in a fatality, serious injury, or substantial property damage to the CSB within four hours.  The proposed rule also identifies the specific information required to be included in the accidental release report:

  1. A brief description of the accidental release;
  2. Whether the release resulted in a fire, explosion, death, serious injury, or property damage;
  3. The number of fatalities and/or serious injuries, and the estimated property damage at or outside the stationary source;
  4. The name of the material involved;
  5. The amount of the release; and
  6. Whether the accidental release resulted in an evacuation order impacting members of the general public and other details associated with the evacuation.

Importantly, recognizing that some or all of this information may not be known within four hours of an accidental release, the CSB decided to  include the qualifier — “if known” — for much of the information that would be required in the report.

If, however, the owner/operator submits a report to Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know About OSHA’s Health and Chemical Exposure Standards [Webinar Recording]

On October 22nd, Kate McMahon, Amanda Walker, and Beeta Lashkari of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding “Everything You Need to Know about OSHA’s Health and Chemical Exposure Standards.”

In addition to OSHA’s myriad Safety regulations, the agency has also promulgated approx. 30 comprehensive Health standards, and established air exposure limitations for an additional 500 common chemicals present in U.S. workplaces, such as asbestos, lead, and silica.  Knowing when and how to conduct monitoring is complex, and the chemical sampling data collected can be a double-edged sword.  This webinar helped employers understand and comply with the requirements of OSHA’s occupational health standards, provided useful guidance and tips on the types and frequency of air monitoring or other chemical sampling that may be required at your facilities, and the programs to implement if you do experience exposure levels above the minimum regulatory thresholds (or other industry consensus thresholds). 

Specifically, participants in this webinar will learned about: Continue reading

EPA Sends Final RMP Rollback Rule to OMB for Review

By Micah Smith, Eric J. Conn and Beeta Lashkari

Last week, on September 12, 2019, EPA sent its Final RMP Rollback Rule to the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) for pre-publication review.  The rule is expected to roll back many of the Obama-era RMP Amendment Rule that added to and enhanced numerous RMP requirements, which was finalized and published in the Federal Register three days before President Trump’s Inauguration.  

This new near-final RMP Rollback Rule comes after a long and tortured rulemaking and litigation history in which President Obama’s EPA rushed out the RMP Amendments Rule, President Trump’s EPA attempted to delay the RMP Amendments Rule, those attempts were defeated in federal court, and then EPA quickly finalized the current rulemaking with anticipated roll-backs.  Here is a quick summary of that history: Continue reading

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

By Lindsay A. DiSalvo and Beeta B. Lashkari

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

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

Whistleblower Complaints

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

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

Fate of Midnight Obama-era OSHA Rules [Webinar Recording]

On June 18, 2019, Kate McMahon, Micah Smith, Dan Deacon, and Beeta Lashkari of Conn Maciel Carey‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding the “Fate of Various Obama-era OSHA Rules.”

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

But, as a new administration took the reigns at the Department of Labor, many wondered what would be the fate of these “midnight rules”?  While many agency regulations have been subject to additional rulemaking (or even rule-rescinding), as expected given Pres. Trump’s promise for deregulation, others have remained untouched.  This webinar will review the status of these OSHA Rules and where they may be headed.

Participants in this webinar learned about:

Continue reading

In the Wake of Criticism of the E-Recordkeeping Anti-Retaliation Rule, OSHA Issues New “Guidance”

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta B. Lashkari

On May 11, 2016, OSHA published its Final Rule for injury and illness recordkeeping electronic data submissions — what we refer to as the E-Recordkeeping Rule. The rule fundamentally changed OSHA’s long-standing injury and illness recordkeeping program by requiring injury and illness data to be proactively shared with OSHA, which intended originally (and still, but after some delay) to publicize the data for all the world to see. The 2016 E-Recordkeeping Rule required:

  1. All establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation to submit to OSHA annually their injury and illness data and information from their OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Incident Reports, and 300A Annual Summaries.
  2. Establishments with 20-249 employees in select “high hazard industries” to annually submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries only.

In addition to the electronic data submission requirements, the E-Recordkeeping also introduced (out of left field) some new anti-retaliation restrictions that were intended to eliminate employer policies that may discourage employees from reporting injuries, purportedly for the nefarious purpose of reducing the numbers of injuries the employer has to share with OSHA.  These anti-retaliation provisions included very generic, vague language, but through a series of memos, interpretation letters, and other guidance, we have learned that the anti-retaliation elements primarily restrict employers’ use of safety incentive programs (prizes for injury-free work), post-incident drug testing, executive compensation and bonuses, and post-incident discipline.  Although none of those terms even appears in the 2016 regulatory text, OSHA included a panoply of new restrictions impacting very common workplace policies and programs in the Preamble to the Final Rule.  For more information about the controversial anti-retaliation elements of the E-Recordkeeping Rule, check out our previous blog post.

Since promulgation in May 2016, implementation of all aspects of the Rule has been mired in difficulty.  Continue reading

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

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta B. Lashkari

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

D.C. Circuit’s “Inadvertently Issued” Mandate puts RMP Amendments into Effect for a Weekend

By Eric Conn, Micah Smith, and Beeta Lashkari

Late last Friday, August 31, 2018, the D.C. Circuit unexpectedly granted Petitioners’ request to expedite the issuance of the Court’s mandate to strike down the delay of EPA’s 2017 RMP Amendments.  RMP DecisionAs we previously reported, the D.C. Circuit held on August 17, 2018, that EPA acted improperly when it issued a final rule delaying the effective date of a certain set of amendments made to EPA’s RMP Rule (the “Delay Rule”).  Providing for a full rehearing petition period, and absent any action from the Court, the mandate for this decision would have issued at the earliest on October 8, 2017.  On August 24, 2018, however, Petitioners filed a motion to expedite, asking that it issue no later than September 7, 2018.

Petitioners’ arguments focus on the public’s “strong interest” in the prompt issuance of the mandate due to “the serious and irreparable harm and imminent threats to public health and safety that EPA’s Delay Rule is causing,” and they point to the 14 months of delay that has already occurred as evidence of the need for expedited relief.

And in a nod to current events, Petitioners claim that time is now of the essence because of the impending hurricane season, specifically mentioning the OIG’s investigation of EPA’s preparedness and response efforts to Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, EPA and the Intervenors are afforded 10 days to file oppositions to Petitioners’ Motion, so those oppositions had not yet been filed on August 31.

Picture1

After the Court issued the mandate late on Friday, August 31, several motions for reconsideration were filed by EPA and Intervenors, but the Court’s closure over the 3-day weekend left all the parties in suspense, anxiously trying to determine the implications of the decision.

After a long weekend of suspense, the Court ordered EPA to return the mandate on September 4, noting that the responses to Petitioners’ Motion were not yet due.  The Court also briefly noted that it appeared “that the court’s mandate inadvertently issued” the previous Friday.  EPA returned the mandate on the same day.

But now that EPA and the Intervenors have filed oppositions to Petitioners’ Motion to expedite the issuance of the mandate, what comes next?  Continue reading

Tug-of-War Between Fed OSHA and the State OSH Plans over the E-Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn, Dan Deacon, and Beeta Lashkari

A fascinating jurisdictional tug-of-war has broken out between federal OSHA and a few fed OSHA approved State OSH Programs, in relation to OSHA’s Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule).  The E-Recordkeeping Rule requires large employers and smaller employees that operate in certain “high hazard industries” to proactively submit their electronic injury and illness data to OSHA through a special web portal – the Injury Tracking Application (“ITA”).

State Plan Adoption of OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule

When fed OSHA promulgated the Rule in 2016, it built into the Rule a mandate that all State Plans adopt substantially identical requirements to the final E-Recordkeeping Rule within six months after its publication.  However, because the State Plan states all have their own legislative or rulemaking processes, they cannot simply snap their fingers and instantly adopt a new fed OSHA rule.

Most of the 20+ State Plans acted promptly to promulgate their own version of the E-Recordkeeping rule, ahead of the deadline to submit data the first year of the Rule, but as of the end of 2017, when employers’ 2016 300A data was due to be submitted, eight State Plans had not yet adopted (and some, like California, had not even started the process to adopt) an E-Recordkeeping Rule.  Those states included:

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

The delay by these States has primarily been a result of fed OSHA’s numerous announcements that it will soon issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend (or rescind) the federal E-Recordkeeping Rule.  The State Plans have been reluctant to invest the time and resources to implement their own versions of the rule, only to watch fed OSHA change it, causing the states to have to change their own rules again very soon.

Of those eight states, only Vermont has since finalized its E-Recordkeeping Rule this year, and the other seven remain delinquent in their obligation to adopt the Rule.

Last year, fed OSHA and those eight state plans apparently recognized that only employers in fed OSHA states or State Plan states that had already adopted the E-Recordkeeping rule were required to submit their 300A data to OSHA.  This year, however, fed OSHA spoke up about the delinquent states. Continue reading

Conn Maciel Carey Adds Former Attorney-Investigator from the Chemical Safety Board to its OSHA Practice

Conn Maciel Carey LLP, a boutique law firm with national practices in workplace safety (OSHA and MSHA), labor & employment, and litigation, is pleased to announce that Beeta B. Lashkari has joined the firm as an attorney in its Washington, D.C. office.

Ms. Lashkari, a former attorney-investigator at the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), will advise and represent clients in a wide-range of inspections, investigations, and enforcement actions, including those from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the CSB, and state and local regulators. As one of only four attorney-investigators at the CSB, Ms. Lashkari was involved in several major investigations of chemical accidents.

“Beeta brings a unique array of experience and perspective that will enhance the safety and health law services we provide to employers across all industries, and particularly chemical and petrochemical manufacturers,” said Eric J. Conn, Chair of the firm’s national OSHA practice. “We’ve been busy this year expanding our firm, and Beeta is another superb addition to our already deep bench of OSH law experts.”

Ms. Lashkari will also support the firm’s labor and employment practice group in managing workplace investigations, including Continue reading