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

OSHA Unveils Controversial Final Silica Rule and Industry Gears Up For Challenges

By Kate M. McMahon and Eric J. Conn

OSHA has issued its long-sought – and heavily disputed – new regulation aimed at reducing worker exposures to crystalline silica dust, cutting the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) in half for general industry, construction and maritime activities.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) officials on March 21, 2016 cleared the rule, essentially green lighting  OSHA to move forward. With this regulation long represented as a top priority for OSHA, Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels took no time doing so, issuing the final rule only days after Silica Rule Image 2the White House gatekeeper OMB cleared it back to OSHA. Dr. Michaels said in the press release accompanying the rule that the existing limits on Silica dust are “outdated,” and added that limiting exposure to silica dust is essential.

“Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. Today, we are taking action to bring worker protections into the 21st century in ways that are feasible and economical for employers to implement.”

The soon-to-be-published final rule – effective 90 days from its imminent publication in the Federal Register – cuts the exposure limit on respirable crystalline silica in half for general industry, construction and maritime,Silica Rule Image making the new PEL 50 micrograms per cubic meter (50 µg/m³) of air, on a time-weighted average of exposure across the work day. The PEL, which is the core provision of the rule, was controversial enough considering the little return Industry sees from the reduction, as compared to the economic and technical difficulties involved. However, the new regulation also includes an “action level,” set at 25 µg/m³, which automatically triggers numerous ancillary requirements ranging from exposure controls to medical surveillance. OSHA justifies this action level because many workplace health experts believe that Continue reading

OSHA Withdraws Long-Planned Rule To Reduce Slips, Trips And Falls

By Eric J. Conn and Kathryn M. McMahon

In what can only be viewed as another example of OSHA’s inability to effectively advance its rulemaking agenda, OSHA recently withdrew from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review of its quarter-century-in-the-making draft Final Rule to update existing regulations aimed at preventing slips, trips and falls in the workplace. OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House WWS Rule Withdrawalgatekeeper for rules with significant economic impact, reported in late December that OSHA withdrew the rule from OIRA pending further consideration by the Agency. Unless a swift turnabout occurs and the rule is resubmitted to OIRA in the very near term, the rule will not be promulgated before the end of the Obama Administration.

The Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems rule proposal, colloquially referred to as the “slips, trips and falls rule” proposal, was first issued in 1990. That is not a typo. The proposal has languished at OSHA for more than twenty-five years. Eventually, based at least in part on public comments submitted in response to the 1990 proposal, OSHA published a notice to reopen the rulemaking for a second round of public comment in May 2003. However, because advancements in fall protection technology had far outpaced OSHA’s rulemaking process, the Agency concluded that:

“the existing proposal was out of date and did not reflect current industry practice or technology.”

So more delays.

In May of 2010, OSHA issued a reiteration of the proposal, which, according to Agency officials, “reflected current information and increased consistency” with other OSHA standards. OSHA held administrative hearings in January of 2011 on the revised proposal, and this time, seemed as if it was actually making headway and would get the rule across the finish line. Continue reading