[Webinar] Process Safety Update: The Latest with OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule

On Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 1:00 PM Eastern, join Eric J. Conn, Amanda Walker, and Micah Smith of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice for a complimentary webinar regarding Process Safety Update: The Latest with OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule.”

Following the tragic West Fertilizer explosion in 2013, then-President Obama issued an Executive Order directing OSHA, EPA and other agencies to “modernize” the way the government regulates chemical process safety. OSHA and EPA took (or at least initiated) sweeping actions in response to the Executive Order, from enforcement initiatives (like a new wave of Refinery and Chemical Facility PSM National Emphasis Program inspections) to rulemaking and interpretation letters to overhaul OSHA’s PSM and EPA’s RMP regulatory landscape.

When President Trump took office with a de-regulatory agenda, the regulated community was left wondering what this meant for these changes to process safety regulations. But rather than a continued wave of action, the momentum splintered, with some initiatives proceeding, others coming to a halt, and others still being pared back. We saw immediate delays and the beginning of rollbacks of new process safety regulations, yet enforcement initiatives appeared to move forward unhindered. And now, with two years of the Trump Administration in the books, it is still unclear where the regulatory landscape will settle.

This webinar will review the status and likely future of OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule, as well as other major process safety developments from the federal government, state governments, and industry groups.

Specifically, participants in this webinar will learn 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

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

Preparing for and Managing OSHA Inspections and Citations [Webinar Recording]

On July 23, 2019, Amanda Strainis-Walker, Aaron Gelb, and Lindsay DiSalvo of Conn Maciel Carey‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding “Preparing for and Managing OSHA Inspections and Citations.”

Confounding expectations, federal OSHA under the Trump Administration has continued the same aggressive enforcement model we saw during the Obama Administration.  Indeed, by many metrics we are seeing enhanced enforcement — more inspections, higher civil penalties, record numbers of $100K+ citation packages, and a continuing rise in willful / repeat citations and worker safety criminal prosecutions.

OSHA has also continued its aggressive inspection strategies that create a minefield for employers.  In short, the consequences for employers being caught ill-prepared for an OSHA inspection, and making bad choices during inspections and after citations are issued, are more dire now than ever before.

This webinar provided employers with the knowledge and tools they need to prepare in advance for an OSHA inspection, to manage the inspection to a successful outcome once it begins, and to make smart decisions about how to address citations after they issue.

Specifically, participants in this webinar learned:

Continue reading

Key Cal/OSHA Issues California Employers Must Track [Webinar Recording]

On May 28, 2019, Andrew J. SommerEric J. Conn and Megan S. Shaked  of Conn Maciel Carey LLP‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding: “Key Cal/OSHA Issues California Employers Must Track.”

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, is perhaps the most aggressive and enforcement-heavy approved state OSH Program in the nation.  California employers face a host of requirements that other employers around the country do not.  Likewise, the Cal/OSHA inspection and appeal process creates several unique landmines for California employers.

Of particular significance in the coming year, California employers should be on the lookout for a new permanent E-Recordkeeping injury data submission rule, a new focus on finding Repeat violations, and the roll-out of several new California-unique rules.

Participants in this webinar learned about:​

Continue reading

“Unexpected Energization” Still Essential to Require Lockout/Tagout Despite Controversial OSHA Rulemaking

By Dan C. Deacon and Eric J. Conn

After years awaiting the fate of OSHA’s controversial proposed change to write the term “unexpected energization” out of its Lockout/Tagout (“LOTO”) standard, OSHA just announced its new Final Rule of Phase IV of the Standards Improvement Project (“SIP”).  The SIP process was designed to allow OSHA a simplified rulemaking path to make non-controversial changes to fix minor issues with existing standards.  The SIP IV proposal included numerous minor adjustments to a variety of existing OSHA standards, but one seemingly major change to the LOTO standard.  Specifically, the Obama Administration’s OSHA slipped into SIP IV a controversial proposal to revise the scope provision of the LOTO standard to remove the term “unexpected energization” as a prerequisite for the requirements of the LOTO standard to kick-in.  After an outcry by the regulated community, this proposed change to the LOTO standard was removed from the Final Rule.  However, OSHA signaled it will likely re-visit the issue again in a separate LOTO rulemaking.

History of Standards Improvement Project

OSHA initiated the “Standards Improvement Project” (SIP) during the Clinton Administration, and and there have been a series of four SIP rulemakings since.  The Project was intended to allow OSHA to efficiently make non-controversial changes to confusing, outdated, or duplicative elements of OSHA standards and to to align standards across industries and make it easier for employers to understand and comply with safety and health regulations. Continue reading

It’s a Bird.  It’s a Plane.  It’s… an OSHA Inspection Drone?

By Eric J. Conn and Kate McMahon

We have for several years now heard about our military’s and intelligence agencies’ use of unmanned drones to conduct secret surveillance of our geopolitical adversaries and terrorists across the globe.  We may even take comfort in the use of these high-tech mobile video cameras hovering above a terrorist hide-out to foil a plot against our country.  What may be less comforting to employers in the U.S., however, is that OSHA seems to have borrowed the playbook from our spy agencies to assist their inspectors in conducting inspections of U.S. workplaces.

OSHA’s Drone Policy Memo

On May 18, 2018, OSHA issued an internal policy memorandum to its field offices, announcing that it has begun using Unmanned Aircraft Systems, commonly referred to as drones, to assist with worksite enforcement inspections, as well as for technical assistance and training purposes.  For now, OSHA’s new drone policy requires “express consent from the employer” before a drone is deployed in an inspection, but that limitation is simply a policy decision that can change with the political winds blowing in Washington, DC, or ignored by the agency without explanation as we recently saw with OSHA’s “Look Back” policy for issuing Repeat citations.

OSHA’s drone policy memorandum, entitled “OSHA’s Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in Inspections,” expressed that the purpose of drone inspections is to assist OSHA compliance officers gather information at worksites that may otherwise be difficult or dangerous to inspect from the ground.  The drone memo sets forth Continue reading

OSHRC Dramatically Expands Interpretation of “Interconnected” for PSM-Coverage

By Eric J. Conn and Micah Smith

On March 28, 2019, the OSH Review Commission released its decision in Sec’y of Labor v. Wynnewood Refining, OSHRC, Nos. 13-0644 & 13-0791.  In a fairly brief opinion, the Commission affirmed the decision of the ALJ on two significant issues:

  1. the PSM standard applied to a utilities boiler; and
  2. OSHA inappropriately relied upon the citation history of a prior owner in characterizing citations as Repeat.

Expanding PSM Coverage

With regard to PSM applicability, the decision is framed as a response to the arguments raised in the refinery’s brief, but it does not directly address the arguments raised by the amicus brief filed by AFPM and API.  The Commission began its discussion of PSM applicability by evaluating the meaning of the definition of “process,” in particular how to interpret this phrase:

“For purposes of this definition, any group of vessels which are interconnected and separate vessels which are located such that a highly hazardous chemical (HHC) could be involved in a potential release shall be considered a single process.”

The Commission held that, in order to prove a group of vessels qualify as a process, OSHA may prove either that a) the group of vessels are interconnected or b) separate vessels are located such that an HHC could be involved in a potential release.  With surprisingly little analysis, the Commission held that this was the plain meaning of the terms of the standard, and the Commission did not evaluate at all whether OSHA’s interpretation deserved deference.  (Note:  Chairwoman MacDougall disagreed that this was the plain meaning of the terms, but she agreed that OSHA’s interpretation of the definition deserved deference.)

This decision gave no credence to the arguments made by the refinery and the amici, which both urged the Commission to find that interconnected vessels be considered a single process only if there is a reasonable probability that an event such as an explosion would affect the interconnected vessels. Continue reading

11th Cir. Deals a Big Blow to OSHA’s Inspection Authority

By Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. DiSalvo

OSHA’s enforcement authority, specifically as it relates to the agency’s ability to expand an unprogrammed inspection beyond its original scope, has been limited, at least for employers in the Southeast.  Late last year, in United States v. Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed a district court decision to quash an administrative inspection warrant that would have permitted OSHA to expand an inspection of Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc.’s (“Mar-Jac”) poultry processing facility in Georgia, initiated as a partial scope inspection in response to a single, specific reported injury, to become a comprehensive inspection under a Regional Emphasis Enforcement Program. This decision is important for employers because OSHA’s inspection authority has generally been understood to be quite broad, and judges have generally deferred to OSHA when applying the applicable administrative probable cause standard to OSHA’s inspection authority.  But in Mar-Jac, the 11th Circuit determined that an unprogrammed inspection initiated as a result of a specific reported injury could not lawfully be expanded to include other areas of the facility, other hazards unrelated to the specific reported injury, and other aspects of Mar-Jac’s safety program, because the evidence presented by OSHA in support of its warrant application was inadequate to establish reasonable suspicion of the presence of violative conditions unrelated to the reported injury.

Background of the Case

OSHA decided to inspect Mar-Jac’s poultry processing facility in Georgia after the facility called OSHA to report a serious injury that resulted in an in-patient hospitalization on February 4. 2016.  The injury occurred on February 3rd, when an employee attempted to repair an electrical panel with a non-insulated screwdriver, resulting in an arc flash and serious burns to the employee.  After receiving the injury report, OSHA opened an unprogrammed inspection at the facility on February 8th.  At that time, OSHA asked the employer for consent to inspect both Continue reading

2019 Update on OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Significant Injury Reporting Rules [Webinar Recording]

On February 12, 2019 Lindsay DiSalvo and Dan Deacon from Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding: “Updates About OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Significant Injury Reporting Rules.

OSHA’s controversial E-Recordkeeping Rule has been challenged and criticized by stakeholders since its inception, and finally, in January 2019, the Trump Administration unveiled its Final Amended Rule. However, the Amended Rule did not go nearly as far as many expected or hoped. Indeed, the Amended Rule eliminated only the requirement for large establishments to submit 300/301 data, but did nothing to alleviate the data submission burden on smaller employers, and did not address the controversial anti-retaliation provisions (e.g., limits to post-injury drug testing and safety incentive programs) at all.

Not to be confused with E-Recordkeeping, OSHA’s Significant Injury and Fatality Reporting Rule has created significant new interactions between employers and OSHA since its update in 2015.  Many employers still wrestle with the nuances of when and how to report significant injuries involving hospitalizations, amputations, and fatalities to OSHA.  In particular, employers are struggling to determine what constitutes a reportable hospitalization and amputation.

During this webinar, participants learned: Continue reading

OSHA’s New Site-Specific Targeting Inspection Initiative

By Dan C. Deacon and Eric J. Conn

After years of wondering how OSHA could possibly manage and use data collected under the 2016 E-Recordkeeping Rule, the agency has finally revealed its hand.  Last month, OSHA launched its Site-Specific Targeting 2016 (“SST-16”) inspection plan, which outlines the agency’s strategy to target establishments for inspection based on the 300A data collected by OSHA under its Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illness (i.e.  the “E-Recordkeeping Rule”).

What is OSHA’s SST-16 Inspection Plan?

The SST-16 Inspection Plan is OSHA’s site-specific targeting inspection plan for non-construction workplaces that have 20 or more employees.  The Plan is based on the calendar year 2016 300A injury and illness summary data that employers submitted to OSHA via OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (aka, the E-Recordkeeping Portal) in December 2017.

Employers should not be surprised by OSHA’s site-specific targeting plan, as this is not a novel program for OSHA. SST was the grandfather of all OSHA enforcement emphasis programs.  Prior to 2014, SST programs used injury and illness information collected under the former OSHA Data Initiative to target the agency’s inspection resources.

OSHA believes the SST Program is “program helps OSHA achieve its goal of ensuring that employers provide safe and healthful workplaces by directing enforcement resources to those workplaces with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses.

The SST-16 Plan selects individual establishments for inspection based on their CY 2016 300A injury data submitted under the E-Recordkeeping Rule.  OSHA has created a software that will generate a list of targeted establishments for enforcement from this pool of data.  The targeted establishments will be those with Continue reading

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s 2019 OSHA Webinar Series

We are now two years into the Trump Administration, and we have seen a mixed bag of changes in the OSHA enforcement and regulatory landscape. We have watched some late Obama-era OSHA rules get repealed by the Congressional Review Act or delayed and amended through deregulatory rulemaking.  We have seen some efforts to boost up the VPP Program and other cooperative programs—the sorts of policy shifts at OSHA many expect in a transition to a republican administration. However, we have also been surprised by OSHA increasing the number of inspections, setting records for the number of $100K+ enforcement actions, and continuing to issue hard hitting press releases.  And most surprising of all, OSHA still does not have a Senate-approved Assistant Secretary—the longest ever wait for a permanent OSHA Administrator.

As we move into the out years of Pres. Trump’s first term, we expect more reshuffling of OSHA’s enforcement priorities and policies, and more surprises, so it is critical to stay abreast of OSHA developments. This complimentary 2019 OSHA Webinar Series, presented by the OSHA-specialist attorneys in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group, is designed to give employers insight into changes and developments at OSHA during this unpredictable time.

To register for an individual webinar, click the registration link in the program descriptions below. To register for the entire 2019 Series, click here to send an email request, and we will get you registered. If you missed any of our OSHA programs, here is a link to our webinar archive.


2019 OSHA Webinar Series – Program Schedule
OSHA Year in Review & 2019 Forecast

Tuesday, January 15th

Tips to Survive an OSHA Inspection

Tuesday, July 23rd

Updates on OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping and Serious Injury Reporting Rules

Tuesday, February 12th

Joint- and Multi-Employers, Contractors and Temps

Tuesday, August 13th

OSHA’s New Site-Specific
Targeting Enforcement Program

Tuesday, March 19th

OSHA’s Electrical Safety Standards – Top 5 Risks and Mistakes

Tuesday, September 24th

Responding to 11(c) Retaliation Claims & Employee Safety Complaints

Tuesday, April 16th

What You Need to Know About OSHA’s Health Exposure Standards

Tuesday, October 22nd

New Cal/OSHA Enforcement Issues

Tuesday, May 28th

 OSHA PSM and EPA RMP Update

Tuesday, November 19th

The Fate of Numerous Midnight Obama-Era OSHA Rules

Tuesday, June 18th

Workplace Violence & Harassment – OSHA & Employment Law Issues

Tuesday, December 17th

See below for descriptions of the webinars and registration links Continue reading

Process Safety Update: The Latest with OSHA’s PSM Standard & EPA’s RMP Rule [Webinar Recording]

Following the tragic West Fertilizer explosion in 2013, then-President Obama issued an Executive Order directing OSHA, EPA and other agencies to “modernize” the way the government regulates chemical manufacturing processes. OSHA and EPA took sweeping actions in response to the Executive Order, from enforcement initiatives (like the second wave of Refinery PSM NEP inspections) to rulemaking and interpretation letters to overhaul OSHA’s PSM and EPA’s RMP regulatory landscape.

Then President Trump took office with a de-regulatory agenda.  Just days into office, key safety and environmental regulations were delayed or repealed, new political leadership was installed, and enforcement policies were reexamined. So where does that leave OSHA’s and EPA’s efforts to change the structure of process safety management?

This webinar reviewed the status and likely future of OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule, and other major safety and health related developments rolling out in the early stages of the Trump Administration.

Continue reading

Key Takeaways from the Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC

Key Takeaways from the Inaugural
Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC

By the national OSHA Practice at Conn Maciel Carey LLP

The Inaugural Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC on October 23, 2018 was a huge success.  The event allowed more than 160 safety and legal representatives from the petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing, paper manufacturing, and fertilizer industries to hear from and share with senior federal government officials from OSHA, EPA and the Chemical Safety Board, both through interactive panel discussions and breakout discussions.  The agency panels and facilitated discussions covered topics ranging from enforcement under the Trump Administration, to the status of OSHA’s PSM and RMP Rulemakings, candid debates about major issues in dispute in recent PSM and RMP cases, and practical discussions about how to prepare for the next round of inspections under OSHA’s new PSM National Emphasis Program and comply with RMP in the wake of the new Amendments and the imminent Rescission Rule.

Introduction

The day began with welcome remarks from Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice.  Eric set two themes for the Summit:

  1. the importance of candid discussions between regulators and the regulated community; and
  2. the near-term risk of agencies possibly revisiting and revising the historical performance-oriented paradigm of the process safety regulatory framework.

Too often, OSHA and EPA representatives complain that Industry “can make up the rules as it goes along.” – Tweet from a former Senior OSHA Official.

Statements like that imply a haphazard approach to process safety that it is not reflected by the diligent work of refiners and manufacturers across the country.  Our experience shows a much different take on process safety.  We hear about all of the ways that process safety is evolving, we watch how lessons are being learned and applied from incidents and experience, and we see how much time is spent anticipating the kinds of issues that could cause a process safety incident.  More importantly, remarks about Industry “making up the rules as it goes along” also reflect a flawed view that 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

All You Never Wanted to Know about OSHA Repeat, Willful & Egregious Violations [Webinar Recording]

On October 16, 2018, Eric J. Conn and Amanda R. Walker of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar: “Everything You Never Wanted to Know about OSHA Repeat, Willful and Egregious Violations.” 

During the Obama Era, OSHA sharpened its enforcement teeth considerably by rewriting policies to characterize more violations as repeat and willful, and by significantly increasing its civil penalty authority. Now, OSHA violations characterized as Repeat or Willful carry penalties up to approx. $126,000 each. But what are Repeat and Willful violations? And what are these “Egregious” (or per-instance) citations OSHA has been issuing more and more often that lead to multi-million dollar enforcement actions?

This webinar covered the legal standard for Repeat, Willful and Egregious violations, the circumstances most often associated with them, the consequences for receiving them, and how OSHA’s enforcement policies have resulted in significant increases in the frequency with which we see them.

Participants in this webinar learned: 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

Delinquent State OSH Plans, Particularly Cal/OSHA, Catch-up with Fed OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

When fed OSHA promulgated the Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping 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 State Plans all have their own legislative or rulemaking processes, they cannot simply snap their fingers and instantly adopt a new Rule even if required to do so by fed OSHA.  Also importantly, the State Plans, as well as all employers in the regulated community, were getting mixed signals about the future of the E-Recordkeeping Rule from fed OSHA under the new Trump Administration.

Accordingly, although most of the 20+ State Plans acted promptly to promulgate their own version of the E-Recordkeeping rule, leading up to the first injury data submission deadline last year, several State OSH Plans had not yet adopted their own version of an E-Recordkeeping Rule.  Specifically, as of the end of 2017, these eight State Plans had not yet adopted (and some, like California, had not even started the process to adopt) an E-Recordkeeping Rule:

  • 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).

Given the uncertainty of the fate of the E-Recordkeeping Rule after the transition to the Trump Administration and OSHA’s announcement that it would soon issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revisit the E-Recordkeeping Rule, each of these State Plans except for Vermont OSHA continued to delay adopting the Rule even as we approached the second data submission deadline of July 2018.  And that is when fed OSHA started to speak up.

OSHA’s April 30, 2018 Press Release

On April 30, 2018, OSHA issued a press release announcing that employers in all State Plan States (not the State Plans themselves) must implement OHSA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule.  In the press release, OSHA states that it had determined that:

Section 18(c)(7) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, and relevant OSHA regulations pertaining to State Plans, require all affected employers to submit injury and illness data in the ITA, “even if the employer is covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of their own state rule.”

State Plan State Responses

The remaining seven State Plan States provided conflicting responses to fed OSHA’s directive 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.

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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

OSHA’s Policy of Public Shaming: Status and Future under the Trump Admin. [Webinar Recording]

On August 21, 2018, Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar: “OSHA’s Policies of Public Shaming: the Status under the Trump Admin. and the Future.

As a small budget agency, OSHA has long looked for policies that will leverage individual enforcement actions to have the greatest impact on Industry.  That is the origin of OSHA’s controversial policy of “Regulation by Shaming.”  During the Obama Administration, employer shaming became a significant enforcement tool and came in many forms, from increasing use of enforcement press releases that included embarrassing and inflammatory quotations about employers, to maintaining a public bad actors list in connection with the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, and the pièce de résistance – publishing a Rule by which OSHA will collect and publish employers’ injury and illness data and details about fatalities.

The Trump Administration has signaled it will take a different approach to public shaming, but at the very least, the vestiges of these policies still remain, and some Administration actions suggest they are here to stay.

During this webinar, participants learned about:

Continue reading

OSHA Announces Proposed Changes to its Controversial E-Recordkeeping Rule — Industry Comments Are Needed

By the OSHA Practice at Conn Maciel Carey LLP

After years of advocacy for change to (or to rescind) OSHA’s controversial Obama-era rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule), and a transition to the de-regulatory platform of the Trump Administration, OSHA has taken a step (hopefully just the first step) to pare down the E-Recordkeeping Rule.  Specifically, OSHA announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the E-Recordkeeping Rule.  While the proposed change will undoubtedly be welcomed by Industry, the scope of the proposed change, however, does not address most of the fundamental concerns employers have repeatedly raised about the controversial rule.

The Proposed Rule includes only one significant change to the current regulation.  The proposal seeks to eliminate the requirement for the largest employers, those with establishments with 250 or more employees, to annually submit to OSHA the data from their 300 logs and 301 detailed incident reports of recorded injuries and illnesses via OSHA’s new online web portal.  However, the proposal leaves intact the concerning requirements for these large employers and many smaller employers to annually submit 300A annual summary data via OSHA’s electronic portal.

Perhaps even more concerning to employers than leaving in place a portion of the electronic data submission requirements, the proposed rule does not disturb in any manner the highly controversial “anti-retaliation” provisions, or the interpretations of those provisions included in the 2016 final rule preamble.  In addition to establishing requirements for electronic submission of injury and illness recordkeeping data, the 2016 E-Recordkeeping Rule endeavored to restrict employers’ rights to adopt employee injury reporting policies and expanded OSHA’s enforcement authority by introducing a vague new set of “anti-retaliation” provisions.

Particularly controversial was the Continue reading

Important Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Track [Webinar Recording]

On July 10, 2018, Conn Maciel Carey attorneys Andrew J. Sommer, Eric J. Conn, and Megan S. Shaked presented a webinar: “Key Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Track.”

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, is perhaps the most aggressive and enforcement-heavy approved state OSH Program in the nation.  California employers face a host of requirements that other employers around the country do not.  Likewise, the Cal/OSHA inspection and appeal process creates several unique landmines for California employers.

Of particular significance, in the coming year, California employers can expect an uptick in Cal/OSHA penalties as result of two significant changes, one adopting higher maximum civil penalty authority, and the other changing how the agency finds and cites violations characterized as Repeat.

During this webinar, participants learned about:

Continue reading

Unlock the Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Rule (PART 2 of 2 – Five Common LOTO Mistakes)

By Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb

For a host of reasons, it is vital for employers to get compliance with OSHA’s standard for the “control of hazardous energy (Lockout/Tagout)” (29 C.F.R. 1910.147) (LOTO) right, but it also happens to be one of the least understood and most often botched set of regulatory requirements in OSHA’s portfolio of standards.

This two-part article lays out:

  • [Part 1]: 5 reasons it is critical for employers to ensure compliance with OSHA’s LOTO Standard; and
  • [Part 2]: 5 common mistakes employers make implementing LOTO requirements.

Part 1 Summary: Five Reasons it is Critical to Get LOTO Right

As we discussed in Part 1 of this two-part article, there are five important OSHA enforcement reasons why it is vital for employers to truly grasp OSHA’s regulatory requirements for lockout/tagout (LOTO) and implement them.

Those 5 reasons are:

  1. Amputation Injuries Create Special Reporting Obligations
  2. LOTO Citations are Low Hanging Fruit for OSHA
  3. OSHA is Actively Pursuing LOTO Violations with a National Emphasis Program
  4. LOTO Violations Qualify for the Severe Violator Enforcement Program
  5. LOTO Violations are Among the Most Used for OSH Act Criminal Prosecutions

For a detailed discussion about those reasons, check out Part 1 of this two-part article.

Part 2: Five Common LOTO Mistakes

This part details the five most common mistakes and misunderstandings associated with OSHA’s regulatory requirements for LOTO.

     1. Confusion about When the LOTO Standard Applies

Normal production operations are not covered by the LOTO standard.  Rather, the requirements of OSHA’s LOTO standard kick in during servicing and/or maintenance, or any production activity that requires an employee to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device, or if an employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is performed upon the material being processed.  Otherwise, the employer is expected to install and maintain appropriate guards that protect employees as required by 1910.212, OSHA’s machine guarding standard.

While the LOTO and machine guarding standards tend to complement each other—one protects employees during normal production operations (guarding), while the other protects employees during servicing or maintenance (LOTO).  Technically, OSHA may not cite the Continue reading

Unlock the Mysteries of OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Rule (PART 1 of 2 – Five Reasons to Get LOTO Right)

By Eric J. Conn and Aaron R. Gelb

For a host of reasons, it is vital for employers to get compliance with OSHA’s standard for the “control of hazardous energy (Lockout/Tagout)” (29 C.F.R. 1910.147) right, but it also happens to be one of the least understood and most often botched set of regulatory requirements in OSHA’s portfolio of standards.

This two-part article will lay out:

  • [Part 1]: Five reasons it is critical for employers to ensure compliance with OSHA’s LOTO Standard; and
  • [Part 2]: Five common mistakes employers make when implementing the LOTO requirements.

Part 1: Why it is Critical for Employers to Get LOTO Right

The list could be much longer, but we have identified five enforcement-related reasons why it is particularly important for employers to fully grasp OSHA’s LOTO requirements and to implement them effectively.

Before we get to the enforcement reasons for strict LOTO compliance, let’s first note that the associated hazards that LOTO was designed to protect against are serious and frequently realized.  Workers performing service or maintenance on machinery face the risk of serious injuries and even death, if hazardous energy is not properly controlled.  The most common types of injuries from unexpected energization during maintenance are amputations or lacerations to body parts, as well as electrocutions, burns, and crushing/struck-by.

OSHA reports that “craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.”  OSHA also explains that the failure to control hazardous energy accounts for 10% of the serious accidents in most industries.

While employers should never lose focus from that important safety reason to focus on LOTO, the purpose of this article is to address the numerous regulatory enforcement reasons that getting LOTO right is uniquely important.

    1.  Amputation Injuries Create Special Reporting Obligations

Amputations, which is one of the primary hazards intended to be addressed by effective LOTO, is one of the only specific injury types for which there is a special duty for employers to proactively to report to OSHA.  Continue reading

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

On June 5, 2018, Jordan B. Schwartz, Eric J. Conn, and Lindsay A. DiSalvo of Conn Maciel Carey, presented a webinar regarding “Joint and Multi-Employer, Independent Contractor, and Temp Labor OSHA and Employment Law Issues.

Employers’ perceptions about their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality, particularly in the context of oft-changing interpretations of what constitutes an employer-employee relationship. An employer may classify workers as a temp or independent contractor, but that does not mean DOL agrees. At the tail end of the Obama Admin.,  DOL issued guidance that a majority of workers should be treated as employees, insinuating that in most cases, employers are accountable for the obligations of an employer-employee relationship. However, the Trump Admin. appears is shifting gears. That guidance was withdrawn by new Sec. of Labor Acosta. Congress has also begun to undercut the broad joint-employer standard established by the NLRB in Browning-Ferris, by revisiting language in applicable laws. It remains essential for employers to carefully evaluate employment relationships and their own functions in the multi-employer context.

Even if there is no legal employer-employee relationship, companies may have safety obligations and liability depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or when using temporary workers. Protection of temporary workers was a priority of OSHA in the prior Admin., and the guidance developed in that context remains the current standard for host employers and staffing agencies. OSHA has also stood by its multi-employer policy, though it is being challenged in federal court.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading