The ball has dropped, the confetti has been swept out of Times Square, and 2017 is in the books. It’s time to look back and take stock of what we learned from and about OSHA over the past year. More importantly, the question on everyone’s mind (well, maybe just OSHA nerds like us), is what can we expect from OSHA in the first full year of the Trump Administration?
President Trump was carried to the White House on promises (or threats) of rolling back government regulations. At the CPAC conference this year, Pres. Trump’s Sr. Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon, framed much of Trump’s agenda with the phrase, “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of regulations and taxes that the president says have stymied economic growth. OSHA regulations are apparently at the heart of this deconstruction. Now, only half a year into the Trump Administration, we have seen significant changes to the OSHA regulatory landscape. This webinar will take a deep dive into the actions taken by the Trump Administration in conjunction with the Republican Congress to roll-back OSHA regulations or otherwise lessen the punitive influence of OSHA on our nation’s employers. From the repeal of several Obama-era midnight rules, to a budget proposal that could gut OSHA’s enforcement efforts, to a series of Executive Orders that shift to a business friendly regulatory agenda.
President Trump was carried to the White House on promises (or threats) of rolling back government regulations. At the CPAC conference this year, Pres. Trump’s Sr. Policy Advisor, Steve Bannon, framed Pres. Trump’s agenda with the phrase: “deconstruction of the administrative state,” meaning the system of regulations the President believes have stymied economic growth. OSHA regulations are apparently at the heart of this deconstruction. Now, only half a year into the Trump Administration, we have seen significant changes to the OSHA regulatory landscape, from the Congressional Review Act repeal of Obama-era midnight rules, to a budget proposal that could shrink OSHA’s enforcement efforts and prioritize compliance assistance, to a series of Executive Orders that shift OSHA to a business friendly regulatory philosophy.
And now, the Trump Administration has issued its first “Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions,” and the path to “deconstruction of the administrative state” is clearer. The spring Unified Regulatory Agenda explains what agencies like OSHA and EPA will undertake on the rulemaking front, and the shift in the Dept. of Labor’s regulatory agenda for rules and standards affecting workplace safety is more pronounced than ever. The new Regulatory Agenda places a bevy of Obama-era regulatory priorities out in the cold. Among them, new standards to address infectious diseases in healthcare, various chemical exposures, and other broad-based initiatives have been canceled or placed on the regulatory back burner.
Here’s a breakdown of what Pres. Trump’s first Regulatory Agenda reveals about OSHA’s future plans:
Controversial Rules Off the Table
To the relief of industry advocates who spent years wringing their hands over OSHA’s aggressive rulemaking agenda during the Obama Administration, the new Administration put many of the Agency’s previous plans on ice. This set of rules will not see further action for years.
For example, a comprehensive rule addressing combustible dust, which has been in the works for nearly a decade, is off the table. This rulemaking was spurred by a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board, and was pursued by top officials in the Obama-era OSHA. The Trump Administration has removed it from the Regulatory Agenda.
Here are some of the higher profile OSHA rulemaking efforts that are now effectively dead in the water: Continue reading →
What has evolved (or devolved) into perhaps the most controversial election in American history, could translate in a couple of months into a whirlwind for labor and workplace safety policy. Stark differences between the major candidates promise either an onward march for Obama-era rules and enforcement philosophy, or a sudden rollback of the Obama Administration’s aggressive regulatory and enforcement agenda.
How this election turns out will have lasting consequences for a range of labor initiatives and policies, many of which have led to some of the Obama Administration’s most heated policy debates. These range from forcing disclosure of so called “persuaders” involved in union organizing to a public shaming campaign seeking to put employers’ safety data online.
As we discussed during a recent Conn Maciel Carey webinar, the results on Nov. 8th will have a huge impact on how the Labor Department proceeds with both new regulations and enforcement policies. Everything from Wage and Hour to OSHA and MSHA will be affected – and stakeholders will feel the differences quickly regardless who wins the election.
On most issues, a Clinton win would cement what the Labor agencies under Obama view as their mandate to keep issuing tougher rules on behalf of workers and unions. Generally, an election of Trump means DOL will scrap the lion’s share of its current agenda, and begin to repeal regulations finalized over Obama’s two terms, since his economic plan relies heavily on easing regulatory burdens on businesses. Continue reading →
As we wind down the year and head into the waning days of the Obama Administration, we look with interest at the Administration’s latest, and likely final, Semi-Annual Regulatory Agenda, published November 20th.
If one were a jaded OSHA defense lawyer like me, the thought that publication of the Agency’s list of regulatory priorities and planned rulemaking activities on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, when most of the country is focused on family, preparing a Thanksgiving feast, and gearing up for some good football, might have been intentional. “Maybe they won’t notice?” Well, we did, and we thought it would be useful for our readers to have a summary of OSHA’s final priorities in the regulatory arena as the Obama Administration focuses on legacy, and what they would like to accomplish before Secretary Perez and Assistant Secretary for OSHA David Michaels turn out the lights next year at 200 Constitution Avenue.
“So many workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities are preventable. They not only put workers in harm’s way, they jeopardize their economic security, often forcing families out of the middle class and into poverty. The Department’s safety and health regulatory proposals are based on the responsibility of employers to provide workers with workplaces that do not threaten their safety or health and we reject the false choice between worker safety and economic growth. Our efforts will both save lives and improve employers’ bottom lines.”
One note about OSHA’s robust list of planned regulatory activity for 2016 — and an apt idiom for an analysis of the Thanksgiving Regulatory Agenda — OSHA’s eyes are too big for its stomach. While the Agency’s plans look ambitious and aggressive, if history is a guide, the cumbersome rulemaking machinery will prevent much of these plans from coming to fruition, especially in the final few months before the presidential election. Unless 2016 is an exception, this means there really are only a few productive months remaining for OSHA to accomplish some subset of its long list of priority actions. Looking at the roadblocks Dr. Michaels has already faced in the regulatory arena throughout his term – some of which came from the White House itself – it is unlikely OSHA will accomplish much of what appears in its final Regulatory Agenda.
Notwithstanding, it is important to understand the Agency’s rulemaking plans for numerous reasons, the most important of which is that you can count on the fact that Dr. Michaels’ last priorities will become the first priorities of the next Administration, should a Democrat again take the White House.