“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  The Project was intended to allow OSHA to efficiently make non-controversial changes to confusing, outdated, or duplicative elements of OSHA standards and to to align standards across industries and make it easier for employers to understand and comply with safety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

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

Trump Admin. Pumps the Brakes on New OSHA Rules in its First Regulatory Agenda

By Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Practice

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