In one of the Trump administration’s first official acts, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a memorandum on January 20, 2017 implementing an immediate freeze on all pending regulations until they have been reviewed and further action has been approved by President Trump’s new agency heads. Regulatory freezes during a change in administration are not uncommon, and President Obama issued a virtually identical memorandum upon taking office in 2009. However, the Trump administration’s directive takes on additional significance, as it
In a major blow to OSHA’s ongoing efforts to modify existing safety and health standards through informal agency guidance, a unanimous panel of federal judges recently invalidated a July 2015 OSHA memorandum that had significantly narrowed the Process Safety Management standard’s retail facility exemption. Retail facilities have been exempt from the PSM standard since its May 1992 promulgation, based on the understanding that hazardous chemicals are usually only present in such facilities in small quantities that are not likely to create a risk of a catastrophic release. In 1
OSHA substantially revised the 1994 Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in 2012 and by June 1, 2015 most employers have to be in full compliance with the new requirements. Many employers, especially those who work with chemical mixtures, are concerned about their compliance with the new requirements for container labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).
In its budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016 (“FY 2016”), the Obama Administration has asked Congress to increase civil penalties for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSH Act”). As the proposal notes, OSH Act civil penalties have been increased only once since the law was passed 44 years ago. In addition, the proposal urges Congress to apply the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act to the OSH Act, which would increase the civil penalties to keep pace with inflation.
On January 1, 2015, Federal OSHA’s new reporting and recordkeeping requirements went into effect. In addition to reporting all employee fatalities within eight hours, employers will now also have to report work-related in-patient hospitalizations of one or more employees, amputations, and physical eye loss within 24 hours of the incident. OSHA has also updated the list of partially exempt industries that do not have to routinely keep OSHA injury and illness records.
Recent OSHA activity indicates the agency will soon unveil its proposed rule to make recordkeeping violations “continuing” for purposes of OSHA’s six-month statute of limitations (SOL). In addition to placing the rule on its Spring 2014 Regulatory Agenda, OSHA most recently announced the rule will be on the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health’s (ACCSH) agenda for its December 3-4, 2014 meeting. According to the expected amendment, recordkeeping will become an ongoing obligation. This means the six-month period to issue a citation will restart every day an employer fails to correct an existing violation. If promulgated, the rule could significantly expand OSHA’s window to issue recordkeeping citations.
On September 11, 2014, OSHA announced new requirements for the severe injury reporting rule. Employers will now be required to notify OSHA of all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and eye loss within 24 hours of their occurrence. Employers must still report work-related fatalities within 8 hours. The final rule becomes effective on January 1, 2015. This change will certainly lead to more inspections and permit OSHA (and the public) greater access to employers’ injury and illness data.
In a press release today, OSHA announced that the comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica will be extended 15 days from the original deadline of January 27, 2014 to February 11, 2014.
Stakeholders should go to www.regulations.gov to submit their comments electronically. The hearings on the proposed rule are still scheduled for March 18, 2014.
OSHA is seeking public comment on fourteen significant changes it is considering making to its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, plus potential updates to its Explosives and Blasting Agents, Flammable Liquids, and Spray Finishing standards. The request is in response to Executive Order 13650, which directed OSHA and several other federal agencies to improve chemical safety and security. Public comment must be submitted to OSHA within 90 days of publication of its request for information (“RFI”) in the Federal Register, which is expected to take place within the next several days. Responses may be submitted at www.regulations.gov, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal, or by mail and facsimile.
OSHA’s request for information includes, in most instances, an explanation and examples of possible revisions that it is considering to the PSM standard. These proposed changes represent an enormous expansion of coverage and compliance requirements for employers. Both the fiscal and administrative burdens of complying with such dramatic changes could prove to be enormous.
OSHA has a very ambitious regulatory agenda this year. Most recently, it announced a proposed regulation to require electronic reporting of injuries and illnesses quarterly and the creation of an online searchable database for those reported injuries and illnesses. While OSHA emphasizes that the proposed regulation will not alter employers’ basic recordkeeping duties, it will dramatically change the way that OSHA uses injury and illness data to select employers for inspections, and provide unions, community activists, plaintiffs’ lawyers, and competitors with easy access to that data as well.
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