Cal/OSHA Proposes “Permanent” COVID-19 Prevention Rule – Under Review By Its Advisory Committee

Cal/OSHA has just convened an Advisory Committee to consider a proposed permanent Cal/OSHA COVID-19 prevention permanent rule, scheduled to meet on September 23, 2021.  Conn Maciel Carey has been invited to serve on the Advisory Committee, on behalf of the California Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition – composed of a broad array of California and national employers substantially impacted by Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 standards.

Last Friday, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) posted the attached discussion draft for the proposed permanent rule.  If adopted, the permanent rule would expire in 2 years (subject to renewal/amendment) and replace the existing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). We expect that upon the permanent rule sunsetting, the Cal/OSHA Standards Board might take up a permanent general infectious disease standard – which would be another battle to be waged.  There is a broad consensus among the employer community that a general infectious disease standard is unnecessary and ill advised, in light of the existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standards and the inability to prescribe specific measures to address pandemics that have yet to arise.

As many may recall, the ETS was hurriedly adopted around Thanksgiving last year and then amended in June 2021 following bizarre twists and turns, with the Standards Board reconsidering proposed text and votes faced with concerns the draft amendment was not aligned with CDC guidance and was otherwise unwieldy.  Ultimately, the Standards Board formed a subcommittee to consider the future of the ETS that has met regularly since June.

Big picture, the draft permanent rule is largely a significant improvement over the ETS but there are some areas of concern that we hope are addressed through the Advisory Committee process.  We have summarized how the draft permanent rule materially departs from the ETS: Continue reading

MSHA Issues Guidance for Mine Operators and Independent Contractors to Mitigate and Prevent Spread of COVID-19

By: Nicholas W. Scala and Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

On March 10, 2021, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) released additional – and more detailed – COVID-19 guidance.  Issued under the Biden Administration, “Protecting Miners: MSHA Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19” is significantly more detailed than what was provided by MSHA in 2020. The enhanced guidance recommends mine operators and independent contractors working at mines take additional action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. This is akin to what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has recommended in its COVID-19 guidance for general industry workplaces.

Similar to the previous guidance issued by the agency, MSHA continues to rely heavily on best practices outlined byCOVID guidnce the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), however, unlike MSHA’s 2020 guidance, this time the agency lays out specific actions and policies it “recommends” operators undertake while highlighting several specific, existing MSHA regulations that can be applied to COVID-19 prevention for enforcement purposes.

Below, we take a look at some of the most impactful elements of the MSHA guidance, but for a complete review of the MSHA guidance, join us on Thursday, March 18th for the MSHA Defense Report 2021 Webinar – COVID-19 and MSHA: Best Practices and Compliance Strategies for Mine Operators.

COVID-19 Prevention Programs

 For the first time, MSHA formally recommends that each mine develop and implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program. These programs, which have been recommended by OSHA and are required in multiple state-plan OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”), are expected to be the mine’s (or contractor’s) outline and collection of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Our Conn Maciel Carey workplace safety team has been recommending employers have these plans in place, and assisting clients with the development of COVID-19 Exposure Control and Response Plans throughout the pandemic.

Now, those employers regulated by MSHA will be expected to have the plans in place. In instances where OSHA has come on site for COVID-19 complaints or investigations, most often the first document request to the employer is for the site’s COVID-19 Prevention Program, even though under federal OSHA – as with MSHA – it is not currently required by regulation.

MSHA recommends a miner’s COVID-19 Prevention Program and plan would at a minimum: Continue reading