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

By Eric J. Conn and Micah Smith

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

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

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

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:

Continue reading

“OSHA’s Midnight Attempt to Overrule Federal Court’s Decision Is Ripe for Rescission” – WLF Article

Washington Legal Foundation just published Eric J. Conn’s “Legal Opinion Letter” article regarding OSHA’s new “Volks Rule” attempting to circumvent the D.C. Circuit ruling limiting OSHA’s statute of limitations for injury and illness recordkeeping violations from 5½ years to six months.

Below is a summary of the article with an update about Congressional action scrutinizing the Rule, and here is a link to the full article.wlf-volks-article

In the waning days of the Obama Administration, OSHA promulgated a new rule purportedly “clarifying” employers’ continuing duty to correct injury and illness recordkeeping logs for the entire five-year period the logs must be kept. See 81 Fed. Reg. 91,792 (Dec. 19, 2016). The final rule, dubbed the “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness,” amended OSHA’s existing recordkeeping regulations in order to circumvent a 2012 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor (Volks II), 675 F.3d 752 (DC Cir. 2012). This “clarifying” rule is unlawful and should be repudiated.

OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping regulations require employers to record certain injuries and illnesses within seven days of the incident and also to preserve a copy of those records for five years. 29 C.F.R. Part 1904 et seq. Separately, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) authorizes the Secretary of Labor to issue citations alleging violations of regulations adopted under the Act. 29 U.S.C. §§ 651-678. The statute of limitations in the OSH Act states, however, that “[n]o citation may be issued under this section after the expiration of six months following the occurrence of any violation.” 29 U.S.C. § 658(c).

The article provides a historical look at how OSHA interpreted and enforced its injury and illness recordkeeping regulations Continue reading