We wanted to provide a little status report about OSHA’s quiet rulemaking for a permanent COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare. A few weeks ago, at the ABA WOSH Committee Midwinter meeting, multiple senior Department of Labor officials, including Doug Parker (Head of OSHA) and Seema Nanda (the Solicitor of Labor), were asked some pointed questions about the rulemaking. They were all pretty tight-lipped and evasive. We pointed out to the Solicitor of Labor that the very day on which we were talking about the rulemaking was the 90th day since OSHA had delivered the proposed final rule to the White House’s Office of Management Budget for a “final review.” Pursuant to Executive Order 12866, a proposed final rule generally cannot remain at OMB for longer than 90 days unless the regulating agency (in this case, OSHA) requests an extension of the review period. The Solicitor of Labor was asked if the Department of Labor or OSHA had already or was intending to seek such an extension, or whether the agency had decided to withdraw the proposed final rule in light of the changing circumstances of the pandemic and President Biden’s withdrawal of the emergency declaration. She sidestepped the question, stating that OMB can extend the review period at least another 30 days without any formal action by the Department of Labor, but would not say what OMB’s or OSHA’s plans were for the rule.
The one-time, automatic 30-day extension of OMB’s 90-day review period is consistent with our understanding too. See the excerpt below from OMB OIRA FAQs: Continue reading →
On Thursday, April 13, 2023, Eric Conn and Darius Rohani-Shukla presented a webinar regarding Updates about OSHA’s Egregious Enforcement and SVEP.
OSHA violations characterized as Repeat or Willful can now carry penalties as high as $156,259 per citation. You may be wondering, however, what exactly leads OSHA to characterize a violation as Repeat or Willful, and why are they important beyond their high-dollar cost? No doubt, you heard that OSHA changed the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) in September 2022, making it easier to place employers into the program and saddle them with all the negative consequences associated with it even though the citations which prompted the referral are not yet final orders. Raising the stakes even higher, OSHA announced changes to its “Instance-By-Instance” or “Egregious” enforcement policy in January 2023 that will undoubtedly lead to a significant increase in the number of multi-million-dollar enforcement actions.
This webinar explained the legal standard for Repeat, Willful and Egregious violations, the potential consequences for receiving them, and how OSHA’s enforcement policies have resulted in a significant increase in the frequency with which we see these aggravated characterizations.
Over the past several years, employers have seen a significant uptick in retaliation claims filed by employees and investigated by federal agencies. For example, in 2010, only approx. 30% of all charges filed with the EEOC included a retaliation claim, but that number shot up to almost 60% in FY 2021. Similarly, the vast majority of whistleblower complaints filed with OSHA in FY 2022 – about 76% – were filed under Sec. 11(c) of the OSH Act (retaliation based on protected safety acts).
When a general retaliation or whistleblower complaint is received, employers have a chance to explain why the complaint should be dismissed. The response is an opportunity for the employer to provide information so the agency investigating the complaint can close its file; whether that means OSHA decides an onsite inspection is unnecessary or the EEOC dismisses the discrimination charge. The responses can, however, create a written record of admissions that OSHA or the EEOC could use against the employer. Employers should thus be strategic about the information shared at that early stage and should ensure there is a procedure in place for managing and developing these responses.
Consistent with the Biden Administration’s promise to be “the most labor friendly administration” in history,” OSHA recently announced plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”), as early as this Spring, to amend 29 CFR 1903.8(c), which is the regulation governing the rights to participate in OSHA inspections by non-employees of the inspected employer.
OSHA-savvy employers may remember that OSHA tried during the Obama/Biden Administration to give union representatives the ability to participate in OSHA inspections at non-union workplaces by way of a formal letter of interpretation in February 2013, commonly referred to as “the Fairfax Memo.” The interpretation letter responded to an inquiry by a labor union about inspection rights:
“May workers at a worksite without a collective bargaining agreement designate a person affiliated with a union or a community organization to act on their behalf as a walkaround representative?”
The question must be considered in the context of the existing regulatory text of 29 C.F.R. 1903.8(c):
“The representative(s) authorized by employees shall be an employee(s) of the employer. However, if in the judgment of the Compliance Safety and Health Officer, good cause has been shown why accompaniment by a third party who is not an employee of the employer (such as an industrial hygienist or a safety engineer) is reasonably necessary to the conduct of an effective and thorough physical inspection of the workplace, such third party may accompany the Compliance Safety and Health Officer during the inspection.”
Notwithstanding a pretty clear regulatory limitation to third party inspection participation rights, OSHA’s responded to the unions interpretation request in the affirmative, explaining that notwithstanding: Continue reading →
Established in 1982, OSHA’s VPP is a program that recognizes workplaces that demonstrate best practices in safety and health management and serve as industry models. VPP generally requires employers to implement “effective” safety and health management systems (“SHMS”) programs as certified by OSHA, and maintain recorded injury and illness rates below the Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their sectors. Once admitted to the program, an employer is exempt from “programmed” OSHA inspections, though VPP participants must be recertified every three to five years.
Per OSHA, “VPP is effective at reducing injuries and illnesses at participant worksites.” For example, the average VPP worksite had a Days Away Restricted or Transferred (“DART”) case rate of 53% below the average for its industry for non-construction participants and 60% below the average for its industry for site-based construction and mobile workforce participation for 2020 (calculated annually by the Office of Partnership and Recognition and based upon the injury and illness data submitted every year by the VPP participants). These lower than industry rates have been documented since 2001, showing, per OSHA, that “VPP has consistently reduced injury and illness rates in both construction and non-construction VPP worksites for two decades compared with the national average.”
Inspections have commenced in Illinois and Ohio under the the Local Emphasis Program (LEP) focusing on food manufacturers OSHA announced in October 2022. This LEP reflects the agency’s ongoing efforts to ramp up targeted enforcement efforts and follows Regional Emphasis Programs (REP) initiated in Region V over the past two years dealing with exposure to noise hazards (June 2021) and transportation tank cleaning operations (August 2021), as well as the National Emphasis Program (NEP) on outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards which started in April 2022. General industry employers in Region 5 still have to contend with the 2018 Powered Industrial Truck (PIT) Local Emphasis Program as well. A similar LEP targeting Wisconsin food manufacturers, with the primary difference being the NAICS Codes on which the two LEPs, began last Spring. To date, OSHA has opened 12 inspections, but citation data is not yet available for those inspections. Both LEPs mandate an inspection and review of production operations and working conditions; injury and illness records; safety and health programs; and hazardous energy control methods to identify and correct workplace hazards at all applicable inspection sites.
With the winter holidays upon us, heat illness may not be front and center on your minds, but OSHA continues to be push full steam ahead on its rulemaking for a Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Standard in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings, so we wanted to provide you a quick update.
In September, OSHA had drafted but not yet released a summary document of all of the 1,078 comments the agency had received in response to the ANPRM. That summary document is now publicly available, posted on December 16, 2022 on the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (“NACOSH”) docket for its Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group. Below are some highlights from the summary document.
Notably, our Coalition’s written comments were referenced 14 times in the summary document, including for the following propositions: Continue reading →
ANNOUNCING CONN MACIEL CAREY LLP’S 2023 OSHA WEBINAR SERIES
Two years into the Biden Administration, with senior political leadership now firmly entrenched at federal OSHA, the agency is making good on its promise to “use all of the tools available” in its regulatory and enforcement toolbox to protect workers. In part, that has taken the form of increasingly aggressive enforcement (more inspections, more significant penalties, etc.), hiring more compliance officers, launching new special emphasis enforcement programs, and expanding its enforcement policies like its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. It has also taken the form of a broad-based rulemaking agenda that includes work on a new heat illness rule, pushing out a permanent COVID-19 standard for healthcare, expanding its E-Recordkeeping requirements, among other high priority rulemakings.
Accordingly, it is more important now than ever before for employers to stay attuned to developments at OSHA. To help you do so, Conn Maciel Carey LLP is pleased to present our complimentary 2023 OSHA Webinar Series, which includes monthly programs (sometimes more often, if events warrant) put on by the OSHA-specialist attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice Group. The webinar series is designed to arm employers with the insight into developments at OSHA that they need during this period of unpredictability and significant change.
To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below, or to register for the entire 2023 series, click here to send us an email request so we can get you registered. If you missed any of our programs over the past eight years of our annual OSHA Webinar Series, here is a link to a library of webinar recordings. If your organization or association would benefit from an exclusive program presented by our team on any of the subjects in this year’s webinar series or any other important OSHA-related topic, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Although OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting rules may seem clear on their face, there are many nuances in the applicable standards that can create challenges to accurately making and maintaining those required records and reports. And the accuracy of injury and illness records could be becoming even more essential in light of the changes OSHA has proposed to the current e-recordkeeping rule, which would increase the availability and use of injury and illness data.
Already, e-recordkeeping data is collected by OSHA and used in developing and executing its Site-Specific Targeting (“SST”) Program based on an employer’s 300A Summary. Per the changes proposed in the current rulemaking effort, OSHA intends to expand who is required to submit recordkeeping data, what data is collected, and what data is shared with the public. This would result in more employers’ injury and illness data being under the microscope and incorporated into OSHA’s enforcement efforts. Indeed, as COVID-19 recordkeeping continues to drive up DART rates for a number of employers due to the need for COVID-19 positive employees to isolate, more may be pulled in OSHA’s SST Program. Thus, it is important for employers to understand the changes possibly to come in e-recordkeeping, as well as what those changes could mean in the context of evaluating and recording/reporting injuries and illnesses.
After the last couple of years living with COVID-19, we were desperately hoping that we would not have to be talking, thinking or writing about the Monkeypox Virus (“MPV”) as a workplace safety and health issue. And while Monkeypox does NOT appear to be a COVID-19 redux, we have been getting enough questions from our clients that it now seems unavoidable that we have to dig into this. Alas, here is our first take on Monkeypox – what is it, what are the symptoms and modes of transmission, how is it similar to and different from COVID-19, and what should employers be thinking about and doing in connection with this latest plague.
The Monkeypox Virus (MPV):
Monkeypox is a zoonotic diseases, which means it is caused by a virus that is passed between animals & people. MPV was first detected in 1958 in a colony of research monkeys in Central and West Africa, and the first human case of Monkeypox was recorded in 1970. The virus that causes Monkeypox is in the same family as the virus that causes smallpox, and they involve similar, but less severe symptoms in the case of MPV.
The current Monkeypox outbreak is unique in that prior to 2022, Monkeypox cases were extremely rare in the U.S., and cases in individuals outside of Africa, where the virus commonly occurs, were almost always linked to international travel. In mid-May of this year, the first cases associated with the current outbreak were identified in the U.S., and it is clearly spreading now among non-travelers. On July 23rd, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). By late July, the U.S. surpassed 10,000 total cases. Continue reading →
On August 17, 2022, Aaron R. Gelb and special guest, Tabitha Thompson, presented a webinar regarding A Deep Dive Into Periodic Lockout/Tagout Inspections.
Year in and year out, OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout (Energy Control) standard is one of the most frequently cited standards. With the National Emphasis Program on Amputations continuing in 2022, employers are subject to inspections focusing on their LOTO programs and practices even if there are no serious injuries or complaints made about them. With increased scrutiny comes a greater risk of citations—particularly repeat violations—which can lead to employers being placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Despite being such an important standard, OSHA’s LOTO rule continues to be one of the least understood. This webinar took a deep dive into arguably one of the most confusing (not to mention, one of the most frequently cited) aspects of the LOTO rule – periodic inspections.
Earlier this year, in April, OSHA launched a Local Emphasis Program (LEP) in Wisconsin focused on food manufacturers. This LEP reflects the agency’s ongoing efforts to ramp up targeted enforcement efforts and follows Regional Emphasis Programs (REP) initiated in Region V last year focusing on exposure to noise hazards (June 2021) and transportation tank cleaning operations (August 2021), as well as the National Emphasis Program (NEP) on outdoor and indoor heat-related hazards which started in April 2022. General industry employers in Region 5 still have to contend with the 2018 Powered Industrial Truck (PIT) Local Emphasis Program as well. Meanwhile, we have been told to expect a similar LEP targeting Illinois food manufacturers, with the primary difference being the NAICS Codes on which that LEP will focus. While we have not yet seen the Illinois LEP targeting food processing establishments, we expect both programs will involve an inspection and review of production operations and working conditions; injury and illness records; safety and health programs; and hazardous energy control methods to identify and correct workplace hazards at all applicable inspection sites.
Why Is OSHA Targeting the Food Manufacturing Industry?
After examining data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for Wisconsin employers with a primary North American Industry Classification (NAICS) code in the 311xxx range, OSHA determined that food manufacturing industry injuries occurred at higher rates than found in other sectors. In OSHA’s view, the data demonstrates higher rates of total reportable cases; cases involving days away from work, job restriction or transfers, fractures, amputations, cuts, lacerations, punctures, heat burns, chemical burns, and corrosions. As such, OSHA’s stated goal in launching this LEP is to encourage employers to identify, reduce, and eliminate hazards associated with exposure to machine hazards during production activities and off-shift sanitation, service, and maintenance tasks.
Year in and year out, OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout (Energy Control) standard is one of the most frequently cited standards. With the National Emphasis Program on Amputations continuing in 2022, employers are subject to inspections focusing on their LOTO programs and practices even if there are no serious injuries or complaints made about them. With increased scrutiny comes a greater risk of citations—particularly repeat violations—which can lead to employers being placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Despite being such an important standard, OSHA’s LOTO rule continues to be one of the least understood. This webinar will take a deep dive into arguably one of the most confusing (not to mention, one of the most frequently cited) aspects of the LOTO rule – periodic inspections.
Associate Darius Rohani-Shukla has joined the firm’s Labor and Employment and OSHA practices in Washington, DC. Mr. Rohani-Shukla adds solid experience in litigation as well as labor and employment law, including restrictive covenants, wage and hour disputes, claims of discrimination and harassment, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
“We are excited to have Darius advising companies on proactive measures to comply with the myriad of regulatory requirements under federal and state law,” Ms. Maciel says. “He is eager to advise clients on privacy rights for employers at the state and local levels.”
“I like that CMC is a growing firm focused on labor and employment.” he says, “I’m looking forward to getting involved in fascinating and sophisticated work.”
Mr. Conn adds, “I was impressed with Darius’ knowledge of employment law and his critical thinking. He is also a terrific writer, which is hard to find in young lawyers.”
As we kickoff Year 2 of the Biden Administration, it is time to look back and take stock of what we learned from and about OSHA during the very eventful year that just concluded. And more importantly, it is time to look ahead and assess what to expect from OSHA now that OSHA’s full senior leadership team is in place and ready to put its stamp on the agency.
In this webinar, the Partners in Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group will review OSHA enforcement, rulemaking, and personnel developments from 2021. We will also discuss the top OSHA issues employers should monitor and prepare for in the New Year.
On August 2, 2021, OSHA announced a new Regional Emphasis Program (“REP”) focused on transportation tank cleaning operations in the rail and truck shipping industries. This is the second REP launched in Region 5 in less than a month; on June 14, 2021, OSHA commenced an REP to address hazardous noise levels in the Midwest. Employers who perform tank cleaning operations in Region 5, which covers Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana, would be well-advised to dust off their copy of Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s OSHA Inspection Toolkit and take the necessary steps to ensure they are ready for the inspections that will begin before the end of the year.
Why Is OSHA Targeting Tank Cleaning Operations?
In the REP and accompanying press release, OSHA places a special emphasis on the dangers posed by the exposure to toxic fumes from cleaning chemicals or stored products that can build up inside a storage tank, as well as risks of fire or explosion when a worker must handle volatile materials in confined spaces. Additionally, OSHA warns that the workers cleaning these tanks may “face many serious and potentially deadly hazards caused by toxic fumes from chemicals, decaying crops, waste and other substances that can expose workers to suffocation, fires and explosions.” OSHA also highlighted several fatal accidents that occurred in the Midwest, noting that Region 5 has investigated 23 worker deaths and 97 incidents in the transportation and tank cleaning industries since 2016. According to OSHA, the hazards most often found during these inspections involved the failure to prevent the inhalation of harmful substances and to follow procedures for permit-required confined space requirements.
Membership in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) has long been coveted by employers with exceptional safety programs. VPP recognizes employers that implement effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national averages for their industries. To be accepted into the Program, employers must undergo a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals and are re-evaluated every three to five years on myriad metrics to remain in the Program. Importantly, VPP members are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections. However, VPP came under intense scrutiny from the Obama/Biden Administration because it was perceived as being too easy for employers to get into, too difficult to be removed, and provided too much of an enforcement shield. With a transition back to a Democratic Administration, that negative view of VPP may resurface, resulting in further chipping away at participation opportunities and the attendant benefits to employers in the program.
This webinar examined the basics of VPP, and discussed possible changes to participation and the impact on employers that are currently flying or wish to fly the VPP flag. Participants learned: Continue reading →
Today’s topic on the Fed OSHA COVID-19 ETS is health screening and medical management.
29 C.F.R. Section 1910.502(l) sets forth employee screening, employer/employee notification, medical removal, medical removal protection benefits, and return-to-work requirements. This summary describes those requirements of the ETS.
A. Employee Screening
Employers have discretion in choosing whether to implement self-monitoring and/or in-person screening. Employers who choose to have employees self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms can assist employees in that effort by providing them with a short fact sheet to remind them of the symptoms of concern. Employers may also consider posting a sign stating that any employee entering the workplace certifies that they do not have symptoms of COVID-19, to reinforce the obligation to self-screen before entering the workplace.
Employers who choose to conduct in-person employee screening for COVID-19 symptoms may use methods such as temperature checks and asking the employee if they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Employers should conduct this screening before employees come into contact with others in the workplace, such as co-workers, patients, or visitors.
To the extent employers choose to conduct onsite screening, there are important safety considerations to take into account. Continue reading →
Today’s topic on the Fed OSHA COVID-19 ETS is training.
29 C.F.R. Section 1910.502(n) requires that all employers covered by the ETS provide training to their employees. To the extent that the employer has already provided training and that training is compliant with the standard, the employer does not need to re-train employees. This summary describes the training requirements of the ETS.
If the employer has already provided training related to COVID-19, but the previous training did not cover all the elements required by the ETS, the employer must offer training on the elements it had not previously addressed.
As with other OSHA standards, the training required by the ETS must be administered at a literacy level and in a language employees understand. The trainer must be a person knowledgeable in the topics covered by the training and how they apply to the employee’s specific job tasks. Additionally, the training should be interactive, providing an opportunity for interactive questions and answers. An employer may satisfy the interactive requirement even if the employer offers a virtual training if the employer makes available a qualified trainer to address questions after the training or offers a telephone hotline where employees may ask questions.
The training must be designed to allow employees to understand the following: Continue reading →
fully vaccinated people can choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated; and
fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case be tested 3-5 days after exposure, and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
Although the guidance speaks in absolutes, we think that the general limitations that have applied to all prior mask mandates throughout the pandemic continue to inform this updated guidance; i.e., “public indoor settings” is intended to cover locations where there is the potential for exposure to another individual, and not where an employee is “alone in a room” or “alone in a vehicle.”
Is Your County Experiencing Substantial or High Levels of Transmission?
To determine whether your workplace is in a county experiencing substantial or high transmission of COVID-19, the CDC uses two different indicators, the higher of which prevails:
total new cases per 100,000 persons over the past seven days; and
Having shared a series of predictions during our January webinar regarding how OSHA would tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and reshape its priorities under new leadership during the first year of the Biden Administration, we have now taken stock of what has happened at DOL and OSHA during the first months of the Biden Administration, discussed surprise developments, and looked ahead at the remainder of 2021 and beyond. We took a close look at senior leadership now in place or on the way and analyzed what those appointments likely mean for employers. We also reviewed OSHA’s efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including the new healthcare-focused emergency temporary standard and updated guidance for everyone else. In addition, we examined President Biden’s efforts to make good on his promises to increase OSHA’s budget, grow the number of inspectors and generally ramp up enforcement. Lastly, we reviewed key developments in OSHA’s rulemaking agenda.
Here is a summary of the vaccine section of the guidance:
May employers ask employees about vaccination status under federal law? See FAQs K9, K5, K15, K16, K18, K19
Yes – does not violate ADA or GINA.
However, employer should not ask “why” an employee is unvaccinated, as this could compel the employee to reveal disability information that is protected under the ADA and/or GINA.
Recommended practice: If employer requires documentation or other confirmation of vaccination, “notify all employees that the employer will consider requests for reasonable accommodation based on disability on an individualized basis.”
Is vaccination information “confidential” under the ADA? See FAQ K4
Yes, this includes documentation (i.e., the white vaccination card) or “other confirmation” of vaccination, which we presume means any self-attestation form or email from the employee, as well as any record, matrix, spreadsheet, or checklist created by the employer after viewing employees’ vaccination cards or receiving a verbal confirmations from employees.
The records or information must be kept confidential and stored separately from employee personnel files.
How may employers encourage employees and family members to get vaccinated? See FAQ K3Continue reading →