COVID-19 FAQs for Employers – Answers to Frequently Asked Employment Law and OSHA Regulatory Questions

As employers around the country grapple with the employment law and workplace safety regulatory implications of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – now called “COVID-19,” the Labor & Employment Law and OSHA specialist attorneys at Conn Maciel Carey LLP have been fielding countless questions and helping our clients and friends in industry manage this pandemic.

To aid employers, we have created an extensive index of frequently asked questions with our answers about HR, employment law, and OSHA regulatory related developments and guidance.  Here are the categories addressed in the FAQs tool:

COVID FAQs Image

As this situation continues to evolve, we will Continue reading

[BONUS WEBINAR] Employment Law and Workplace Safety Implications of COVID-19 for Brewers, Distillers, and Winemakers

On Monday, March 30, 2020 at 1 PM Eastern, join Eric J. Conn, Kara M. Maciel, and Daniel C. Deacon of the law firm Conn Maciel Carey for a complimentary webinar: “HR and Workplace Safety Implications of COVID-19 for Brewers, Distillers, and Winemakers.”

There have been a number of significant developments related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus – now officially called “COVID-19.” The World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, President Trump initiated a National Emergency Order, and state and local officials have been ordering shutdowns of non-essential businesses and mandatory shelter-in-place orders. Furthermore, Congress passed emergency legislation that temporarily requires employers to provide paid sick and family leave and the Department of Labor has issued guidance on how employers should comply with employment and workplace safety laws.

Local craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries have been deemed essential businesses under current federal and state directives, such as the Virginia and Maryland governors March 23, 2020 orders, but the traditional way of doing business has changed considerably. These changes have raised numerous questions regarding how small businesses can successfully operate while complying with these new requirements.

During this webinar, participants will learn about Continue reading

COVID-19 Pandemic FAQs – OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting

By Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. Disalvo

There are myriad workplace safety and health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, but one OSHA regulatory obligation about which we have received countless questions in recent days is the requirement to record and/or report work-related cases of COVID-19.  Below are two FAQs that describe the relevant analysis in more detail.

  • Do I have to record a case of COVID-19 of an employee on my OSHA 300 Log?

By regulation, the common cold and flu are exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping and reporting requirements (29 CFR Part 1904.5(b)(2)(viii)):CV19

“The illness is the common cold or flu (Note: contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, hepatitis A, or plague are considered work-related if the employee is infected at work).”

The rationale for the exemption is that the spread of the cold and flu are so pervasive that it is typically near impossible to identify the source of infection; i.e., there would be no reasonable way to determine whether it was more likely than not that the illness was caused by an exposure in the workplace.

Despite great sacrifice around the country, the scale of infection of COVID-19 is expected to soon spread like the flu and common cold, but OSHA has already expressed in guidance that COVID-19 is not subject to the cold/flu recordkeeping exemption:

“While 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2)(viii) exempts recording of the common cold and flu, COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job.”

Industry has been advocating to OSHA to have the agency reconsider that initial declaration, but it does not appear OSHA will be exempting this novel strain of Coronavirus from the recordkeeping and reporting requirements any time soon.  OSHA has been maintaining a Safety and Health Topics page for COVID-19 and separate Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 that it updates periodically as more information becomes available.  In its most recent update to guidance, OSHA appeared to Continue reading

Pres. Trump’s Latest Effort to Limit Federal Agency Guidance – Two New Executive Orders

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta B. Lashkari

Late last year, on October 9, 2019, President Trump issued two Executive Orders (“EOs”) that could have a dramatic impact on the way OSHA and other executive agencies operate:

  1. Executive Order 13891, the Executive Order on Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents (Guidance Documents EO); and
  2. Executive Order 13892, the Executive Order on Promoting the Rule of Law Through Transparency and Fairness in Civil Administrative Enforcement and Adjudication (Transparency EO).

These EOs were designed to, according to the President:

“protect Americans from out-of-control bureaucracy and stop regulators from imposing secret rules and hidden penalties on the American people. . .”

In a nutshell, the Guidance Documents EO mandates that the public be provided with an opportunity to comment on proposed guidance and interpretive documents (similar to what is required under the Administrative Procedures Act for rulemaking).  It requires notice and publication of guidance, and the creation of a comprehensive online database where all such guidance must be housed and easily searched.

The Transparency EO focuses on agency enforcement actions.  Most significantly, it requires agencies to provide all parties potentially subject to an enforcement action the opportunity to engage with the agency over the merits of the action prior to commencement of the enforcement action. It also:

  1. prevents agencies from enforcing standards that are not public and that would cause unfair surprise to the regulated entity (i.e., no enforcement relying on guidance documents that are not created and maintained pursuant to the Guidance Documents EO);
  2. requires the publication of any potential new or expanded jurisdiction in the Federal Register;
  3. mandates the development of procedures for encouraging voluntary self-reporting in exchange for penalty reductions; and
  4. requires that agencies adhere to standards in the Paperwork Reduction Act when asking regulated parties for information without a formal subpoena or investigative demand.

The two new Executive Orders align with the President’s business-friendly agenda, making it more difficult for regulators to engage in backdoor rulemaking (i.e., supplementing or changing regulations via the issuance of guidance documents developed without public input), and easier for businesses to keep track of the regulatory requirements with which they must comply, and to head off enforcement actions before they begin.

How will the Executive Orders change the OSH regulatory landscape, and what should employers expect next? Continue reading

How Employers Should Respond to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

By Kara M. Maciel and Beeta B. Lashkari

The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“2019-nCoV” or “coronavirus”) is a respiratory illness that, with its spread to the United States, is raising important issues for employers.  This guide explains the outbreak, the legal implications of it, and how employers should be responding now to employees who might have the virus, are caring for affected family members, or are otherwise concerned about their health in the workplace.

The Coronavirus Outbreak

First detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, 2019-nCoV is a respiratory virus reportedly linked to a large outdoor seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread.  However, a growing number of patients reportedly have not had exposure to animal markets, indicating person-to-person spread is occurring.  At this time, it is unclear how easily the virus is spreading between people.  Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, runny nose, headache, sore throat, and the general feeling of being unwell.  The incubation period is approximately 14 days, during which time an individual may see no symptoms but may still be contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reports that an ongoing investigation to determine more about this outbreak is underway, that the situation is rapidly evolving, and that more information will be provided as it becomes available.

As of January 30, 2020, there have been approximately 8,100 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in many countries, including in the United States.  On January 30, 2020, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”  On January 31, 2020, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II declared a public health emergency for the United States to aid the country’s healthcare community in responding to 2019-nCoV.  Additionally, on the same day, the President of the United States signed a presidential “Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.”

Legal Implications for Employers

With the presence of coronavirus in the United States, employers must be vigilant in complying with the various labor and employment laws implicated by the virus.

Continue reading

REMINDER: February 1, 2020 Deadline to Prepare, Certify, & Post OSHA 300A Annual Summaries of Work-Related Injuries: 5 Common Mistakes Employers Make

By Lindsay A. DiSalvo, Dan C. Deacon, and Eric J. Conn

This is your yearly reminder about the important February 1st deadline to prepare, certify and post your OSHA 300A Annual Summary of workplace injuries and illnesses, for all U.S. employers, except those with ten or fewer employees or those whose NAICS codes are in the set of low-hazard industries exempt from OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping requirements, such as dental offices, advertising services, and car dealers (see the exempted industries at Appendix A to Subpart B of Part 1904).  The Form 300A is a summation of the workplace injuries and illnesses recorded on the OSHA 300 Log during the previous calendar year, as well as the total hours worked that year by all employees covered by the particular OSHA 300 Log.

Note that February 1st falls on a Saturday this year, but that does not affect the deadline to post.  So, if there will be noone present at your workplace to make the posting on that Saturday, be sure to get your 300A posted by Friday, January 31st.

This February 1st requirement to prepare, certify and post 300A forms should not be confused with OSHA’s Electronic Recordkeeping Rule.  The February 1st deadline is only about the internal hard copy posting of 300A data for your employees’ eyes.  The E-Recordkeeping Rule, on the other hand, requires certain employers to electronically submit data from their 300A Annual Summary forms to OSHA through OSHA’s web portal – the Injury Tracking Application. The deadline for those submissions this year (i.e., to submit 300A data from 2019) is March 2, 2020.  Click here for more information about OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule.

By February 1st every year, covered employers must:

  • Review their OSHA 300 Log(s);
  • Verify the entries on the 300 Logs are complete and accurate;
  • Correct any deficiencies identified on the 300 Logs;
  • Use the injury data from the 300 Log to calculate an annual summary of injuries and illnesses, and input those calculations into the 300A Annual Summary Form; and
  • Have a “Company Executive” certify the accuracy of the 300 Log and the 300A Summary Form.

Five Common 300A Mistakes that Employers Make

We frequently see employers make the following five mistakes related to this annual duty to prepare, post and certify the injury and illness recordkeeping summary: Continue reading

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s 2020 OSHA Webinar Series

We are three years into the Trump Administration, and we have seen a mixed bag of change and business as usual at OSHA in enforcement and rulemaking. We watched late Obama-era OSHA rules get repealed, delayed, or amended and a modest boost in compliance assistance—the sort of policy shifts you expect to see in a transition from a Democratic to a Republican Administration. However, we have seen plenty of the unexpected, such as increases in virtually every enforcement metric, including record numbers of $100K+ enforcement actions. And most surprising of all, OSHA still does not have an Assistant Secretary—the longest ever vacancy for the top job at OSHA—and it seems highly likely the Agency will remain without a Senate-approved leader for the entirety of this presidential term. As we move into an election year, the final year of President Trump’s current term, we expect more reshuffling of OSHA enforcement policies and rulemaking priorities, and surely more surprises, so it is critical to stay abreast of OSHA developments.

Conn Maciel Carey’s complimentary 2020 OSHA Webinar Series includes monthly webinars presented by OSHA-specialist attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice designed to give employers insight into developments at OSHA during this remarkable time in OSHA’s history. 

To register for an individual webinar, use the registration links in the program descriptions below. To register for the entire 2020 Series, click here to send an email request, and we will register you. If you miss a program this year or missed any in prior years, click here for our webinar archive.

We are exploring CLE approval for this series.  If you are interested in CLE or other forms of Continuing Education credits, click here to complete a survey.

OSHA’s 2019 in Review
and 2020 Forecast

Thursday, January 23rd

All You Need to Know About
OSHA’s General Duty Clause

Thursday, July 23rd

OSHA Settlement
Tips And Strategies

Tuesday, February 25th

Employee Discipline – OSHA
and Labor & Employment Issues

Wednesday, August 19th

Strategies for Responding to Whistleblower Complaints

Wednesday, March 25th

Privileged Audits and Investigations and OSHA’s Self-Audit Policy

Tuesday, September 22nd

Annual Cal/OSHA Update

Thursday, April 16th

Impact of the Election on OSHA

Thursday, October 22nd

E-Recordkeeping and
Injury
Reporting Update

Wednesday, May 20th

Updates about OSHA’s PSM
Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule

Tuesday, November 17th

OSHA’s PPE Standards –
Top 5 Risks and Mistakes

Tuesday, June 16th

Impact of America’s Aging Workforce on OSHA and Employment Law

Wednesday, December 16th

See below for the full schedule with program descriptions,
dates, times and links to register for each webinar event.
Continue reading

OSHA Issues Additional Respirator Fit Testing Protocols to Provide More Flexibility for Employers

By Dan Deacon and Eric J. Conn

On September 26, 2019, OSHA issued a new Final Rule providing employers with new options for fit testing protocols to comply with OSHA respiratory protection requirements designed to protect workers from airborne contaminants.  More specifically, the new Rule, entitled “Additional Ambient Aerosol CNC Quantitative Fit Testing Protocols: Respiratory Protection Standard,” establish two additional methodologies for respiratory fit testing:

  1. a modified ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter (CNC) quantitative fit testing protocol for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators; and
  2. a modified ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol for filtering facepiece respirators.

The rule became effective September 26, 2019.

Both new protocols are abbreviated variations of the original OSHA-approved ambient aerosol CNC quantitative fit testing protocol (often referred to as the PortaCount protocol), and differ from the test by the exercise sets, exercise duration, and sampling sequence. The protocols serve as alternatives to the four existing quantitative fit testing protocols already listed in the Mandatory Appendix A of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard:

  1. generated aerosol;
  2. ambient aerosol condensation nuclei counter (CNC);
  3. controlled negative pressure (CNP); and
  4. controlled negative pressure REDON.

The intent of the Rule is to Continue reading

[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

Everything You Need to Know About OSHA’s Health and Chemical Exposure Standards [Webinar Recording]

On October 22nd, Kate McMahon, Amanda Walker, and Beeta Lashkari of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding “Everything You Need to Know about OSHA’s Health and Chemical Exposure Standards.”

In addition to OSHA’s myriad Safety regulations, the agency has also promulgated approx. 30 comprehensive Health standards, and established air exposure limitations for an additional 500 common chemicals present in U.S. workplaces, such as asbestos, lead, and silica.  Knowing when and how to conduct monitoring is complex, and the chemical sampling data collected can be a double-edged sword.  This webinar helped employers understand and comply with the requirements of OSHA’s occupational health standards, provided useful guidance and tips on the types and frequency of air monitoring or other chemical sampling that may be required at your facilities, and the programs to implement if you do experience exposure levels above the minimum regulatory thresholds (or other industry consensus thresholds). 

Specifically, participants in this webinar will learned about: Continue reading

2nd Annual Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC – October 15-16, 2019

Register today for the 2nd Annual Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC on October 15-16, 2019.

What is the Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC?

The Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC is an annual event in our nation’s Capital.  The Inaugural Summit last Fall welcomed more than 175 safety and legal professionals from stakeholders in the chemical, petrochemical, paper, and petroleum refining industries and other industries with operations covered by OSHA’s PSM Standard and EPA’s RMP Rule. The Summit focuses on the process safety regulatory landscape and industry best practices, with programming that covers rulemaking, enforcement programs, significant cases, trends as we move through the Trump Administration, best practices, and other key process safety regulatory issues impacting Industry.

The Agenda and format for the 2nd Annual Process Safety Summit in Washington, DC will include one-of-a-kind line-up of speakers and panels of senior government officials and industry experts, as well as moderated round table sessions.  The event is broken into two parts:

  1. A half-day of confidential breakout sessions with Industry stakeholders and a networking cocktail reception on October 15th; followed by
  2. A full-day of panels and speakers from OSHA, EPA, the OSH Review Commission, Former Heads of OSHA, the CSB, and others on October 16th.

This Summit 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

OSHA’s Electrical Safety Standards: 5 Reasons to Get it Right and 10 Common Mistakes [Webinar Recording]

On September 24, 2019, Micah Smith, Aaron Gelb, and Dan Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding “OSHA’s Electrical Safety Standards: 5 Reasons to Get it Right and 10 Common Employer Mistakes.”

Electrical safety has long been an enforcement priority for OSHA. OSHA’s electrical standards are designed to protect employees against hazards of electric shock, electrocution, flash fires, and explosions.  Often, workers and/or their employers are unaware of the potential electrical hazards present in their work environment, and even more often, they are unfamiliar with the nuances of OSHA’s regulatory requirements in this area.This webinar will highlight the top 5 reasons it is critical for employers to get compliance with OSHA’s electrical safety standards right, explain the 10 most misunderstood and misapplied provisions of the applicable OSHA standards, and discuss strategies to limit exposure to the most common electrical safety violations.

Specifically, participants in this webinar learned: Continue reading

In-Person OSHA, MSHA, and Labor Briefing (and Launch Party) in Columbus, OH – October 1, 2019

Join Conn Maciel Carey for an In-Person OSHA, MSHA, and Labor Briefing in Columbus, OH on Tuesday, October 1, 2019, and stay for a cocktail reception to celebrate the launch of our new Columbus, Ohio Office.

This complimentary program will feature panel discussions with current and former representatives from the National Labor Relations Board, OSHA and MSHA addressing key enforcement and regulatory developments.  The government representatives will be joined by senior corporate counsel from several multi-national corporations and Conn Maciel Carey’s Labor & Employment and Workplace Safety Law specialist attorneys.  The plenary sessions will cover topics including:

  • OSHA policy and enforcement developments
  • NLRB rulemaking and Board case law updates
  • MSHA regulatory and enforcement priorities
  • Other trending topics (joint-employer, pension withdrawal liability, whistleblower / anti-retaliation claims)

There will also be breakout sessions with discussions led by CMC attorneys covering issues of particular concern to various industry segments.

Here is the current agenda for the event:

The briefing Continue reading

Joint-/Multi-Employer, Temps, and Contractor OSHA and Employment Law Issues [Webinar Recording]

On August 13, 2019, Jordan Schwartz, Eric J. Conn and Lindsay Disalvo of Conn Maciel Carey presented a webinar regarding “Joint- and Multi-Employer, Independent Contractor, and Temp Labor OSHA and Employment Law Issues.”

Employment relationships can take many forms, and employers’ perceptions of their legal responsibilities for certain workers is not always reality. An employer may classify workers as temporary or independent contractors, but that does not mean DOL will agree. This is particularly challenging due to continuous changes in the law relating to these types of employment relationships.

One particular area in flux over the past several years has been the joint-employer standard, significantly expanding in the Obama-era NLRB decision in Browning-Ferris, but in the wake of change through an ongoing NLRB rulemaking. Similarly, the boundary between employees and independent contractors has also been a moving target. Although the prior administration took the view that a majority of workers are employees in its guidance to employers, the Trump Admin. has signaled a change in direction.

Even where there is not a legal employer-employee relationship, companies may have certain safety and health obligations and potential liabilities depending on their role at multi-employer worksites or the use of temporary workers. Protecting temporary workers and enforcing the responsibilities of host employers and staffing agencies was a priority of OSHA in the Obama Admin. through a Temporary Worker Initiative that continues today.  OSHA has also continued to defend its multi-employer worksite enforcement policy through legal challenges.

Specifically, participants in this webinar learned:

Continue reading

Responding to OSHA 11(c) Retaliation Charges, Employee Safety Complaints, and Rapid Response Investigations

By Lindsay A. DiSalvo and Beeta B. Lashkari

When OSHA receives a complaint related to worker safety and health or a severe injury report, one action by OSHA is to give the employer an opportunity to respond before it takes the more extreme action of opening an inspection.  In addition, when OSHA receives an allegation of retaliation, it must provide the employer a chance to explain why the adverse employment action of which it is accused was legitimate or did not occur as alleged.  These responses are an opportunity for the employer to avoid an inspection or litigation of a retaliation claim.  A strong response could assuage OSHA’s concerns and resolve the complaint in a favorable manner for the employer.  However, these responses can also create a written record of admissions to which OSHA can hold the employer accountable, and any supporting documentation may be closely scrutinized and used to create liability.

Thus, employers must ensure there is a procedure in place for managing and developing the responses to these situations, and be strategic about the information they share with OSHA in the response.  We are pleased to share the following tips and strategies for how to effectively address such complaints.

Whistleblower Complaints

To start, although OSHA enforces whistleblower standards under 22 different statutes, the agency receives most of its retaliation claims (over 62%) under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Section 11(c) prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who in good faith attempt to exercise a worker safety-related protected right under the law.

While the vast majority – about 71% – are either dismissed by OSHA or withdrawn by the employee, the sheer number of complaints OSHA receives, and the fact that nearly 30% of them do end in favor of the employee, should be more than motivation for employers to thoroughly address each one filed against them.  This is particularly true because, under Section 11(c), employees can be entitled to substantial remedies, such as 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

Fate of Midnight Obama-era OSHA Rules [Webinar Recording]

On June 18, 2019, Kate McMahon, Micah Smith, Dan Deacon, and Beeta Lashkari of Conn Maciel Carey‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding the “Fate of Various Obama-era OSHA Rules.”

In the final days (and even hours) of the Obama Administration, OSHA promulgated several significant regulatory changes.  For example, after several decades, it updated the Walking Working Surfaces Standard (the regulation covering slips, trips and falls).  It also published a controversial Electronic Injury Data Submission Rule, 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 many agency regulations have been subject to additional rulemaking (or even rule-rescinding), as expected given Pres. Trump’s promise for deregulation, others have remained untouched.  This webinar will review the status of these OSHA Rules and where they may be headed.

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

Conn Maciel Carey Opens Columbus, Ohio Office

Conn Maciel Carey LLP announced today the opening of its Columbus, Ohio office. It is the firm’s sixth office nationally and the second location in the Midwest. The new office represents another important step in the firm’s continued growth in the region, together with the opening of its Chicago office last year.

Columbus is a growing Midwest hub and is centrally located to many of the nation’s current and historic industrial centers. With an expanded Midwest presence, Conn Maciel Carey attorneys now provide enhanced services to its national clients operating in the Midwest.

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We are excited about our expanding Midwest presence” said the firm’s Managing Partner Bryan Carey. “The Columbus office will allow the firm to build upon the success of our 2018 launch of our Chicago office, offering clients operating in the central United States with greater proximity to our attorneys, resources, and counsel.

Nicholas W. Scala, a partner with the firm, will lead the Columbus office. Mr. Scala joined the Firm in 2016, founding the firm’s MSHA Practice Group, which he chairs. His principal practice services the mining industry, managing all interaction with, and contest of enforcement by, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for companies operating in the coal, aggregates, industrial minerals, and cement industries.  Nick also supports the firm’s national OSHA Practice Group, Continue reading

Responding to 11(c) Safety Retaliation Complaints and Notices of Alleged Hazards / Employee Safety Complaints [Webinar Recording]

On April 16, 2019, Kate M. McMahon and Lindsay A. DiSalvo of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA • Workplace Safety Group presented a webinar regarding Responding to 11(c) Safety Retaliation Complaints and Notices of Alleged Hazards / Employee Safety Complaints.

When OSHA receives a complaint related to employee safety and health or a severe injury report, OSHA often gives the employer an opportunity to respond before it thumbnail-1takes the more extreme action of opening an inspection.  In addition, when OSHA receives an allegation of retaliation, it must provide the employer a chance to explain why the action of which it is accused was legitimate or did not occur as alleged.  These responses are an opportunity for the employer to provide sufficient information to avoid a full-blown OSHA inspection or becoming enmeshed in the litigation of a retaliation claim.  A strong and thorough response could resolve OSHA’s concerns and resolve the retaliation complaint in a favorable manner for the employer.

However, these responses could also create a written record of admissions to which OSHA can hold the employer accountable, and any supporting documentation may be closely scrutinized and potentially used to create liability.  Thus, employers must be strategic about the information they share at this early stage and should ensure there is a procedure in place for managing and developing these responses.

​Participants in this webinar learned about the following:​ 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

OSHA’s New Site-Specific Targeting Enforcement Program [Webinar Recording]

On March 19, 2019 Amanda Walker, Aaron Gelb and Dan Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey LLP‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding: “OSHA’s New Site-Specific Targeting Enforcement Program.

More than two years after OSHA published the E-Recordkeeping Rule, the agency finally revealed some of its plans for how it will utilize employers’ 300A injury data collected under the new Rule.  In late October 2018, OSHA launched its new Site-Specific Targeting Enforcement Program, which outlines how the agency will select non-construction establishments for programmed inspection. OSHA will create targeted inspection lists based on employers’ higher than average Days Way, Restricted or Transfer (“DART”) injury rates. OSHA will also include a random sample of establishments with lower than expected injury rates for quality control. Thus, all employers covered by OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule may be subject to an SST inspection.

Participants in this webinar learned: Continue reading