Environmental & Safety Law Update

EPA’s New Strategy for Addressing the Retail Sector under RCRA

Posted in Environmental Compliance, Retail

By Jeryl L. Olson, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

bottleSeyfarth Synopsis: EPA publishes new Retail Strategy in an attempt to address the unique challenges the retail sector faces in complying with RCRA’s hazardous waste regulations.

The regulation of hazardous waste in stores, warehouses and during reverse logistics processes in the retail sector has been fraught with difficulty for the retail industry, in large part due to competing, and inconsistent rules by state and local governments. and California. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has indicated it is looking to balance its goals of minimizing impacts to the environment, without undue regulatory burdens on an industry that does not have significant experience in the morass of RCRA requirements.

We have previously blogged extensively on this topic, encouraging the guidance now being considered by EPA : “DOT Publishes Final Rule on “Safe Reverse Logistics” for Retail “Returns” of Hazardous Materials to Distribution Centers,” “OSHA Enforcement Memo and Interim Policy on the Process Safety Management Retail Exemption,” “EPA Rulemaking on Hazardous Waste Management in the Retail Sector, and “Warning! Retailers’ Environmental Enforcement Initiative in New York”.

According to EPA, it’s Strategy for Addressing the Retail Sector under RCRA’s Regulatory Framework is a “next step” in EPA’s goal to increase clarity for retailers on how retail hazardous wastes should be handled. EPA notes that its ongoing outreach efforts, combined with the comments received it received on the February 2014 Notice of Data Availability (NODA) for the Retail Sector (79 Fed. Reg. 8926), have “improved the Agency’s understanding of the challenges arising when managing unused/intact consumer goods that have become unsalable at retail stores and are moving through the reverse distribution system.”

EPA’s going-forward Strategy uses a three-pronged approach:

  1. Issue Agency policy, guidance and rulemaking to ensure a better fit between RCRA regulations and the retail sector.
  2. Research retail hazardous waste management practices and related issues in the area of reverse distribution, universal waste and other challenges.
  3. Using the results of that evaluation and research, identify additional approaches to address outstanding RCRA retail sector issues if needed.

In the near term, EPA intends to focus its efforts on finalizing the related Pharmaceuticals and Generator Improvements rules, which only tangentially address retail hazardous waste. Over the longer term, EPA intends to more directly address the retail sector’s concerns by:

  1. Issuing a guide to recycling aerosol cans, which EPA found make up the largest percentage of retail hazardous wastes (35%);
  2. Proposing rules to add aerosol cans, pesticides, an/or electronics to the federal universal waste rules, allowing for simplified disposal; and
  3. Developing a policy that directly addresses the reverse distribution process for the retail sector as a whole.

In an attempt to show that it has not simply been sitting around over the 2+ years since the NODA and the highly publicized state enforcement cases against retailers, EPA has provided a diagram showing the flow of retail items and relationships among various organizations that manage consumer goods and wastes based on the research it has completed so far.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Seyfarth Environmental Compliance, Enforcement & Permitting Team.

Retail Detail: California Adopts New Regulations For Warnings Under Proposition 65: CAVEAT VENDITOR (Sellers Beware)

Posted in California, Environmental Compliance, Retail

By Jay W. Connolly and Aaron Belzer

bottleSeyfarth Synopsis: New California regulations provide more specific guidance on the content of Prop 65 “safe harbor” warnings, and on the corresponding methods for providing such warnings.

Come August 30, 2018, consumer products to be released into the California marketplace must meet new regulations under California’s infamous Proposition 65. On August 30, 2016, the California Office of Administrative Law approved the adoption of new regulations for clear and reasonable warnings under Proposition 65.

Proposition 65, known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires businesses with 10 or more employees to give “clear and reasonable” warnings to California consumers before knowingly and intentionally exposing them to known carcinogens or reproductive toxins (“Listed Chemical”). Proposition 65 requires the Governor of California to publish and periodically update a list of known carcinogens and reproductive toxins. To date, almost 1,000 substances appear on this list.

Under the existing regulations, a warning is “clear’ if it effectively communicates that the Listed Chemical in question is known to the State of California to cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm. It is “reasonable” if the method used by a business to transmit the warning is reasonably calculated to make the warning message available to the individual before exposure (for a consumer product, before purchase). The existing regulations provide “safe harbor” guidance regarding types of warning methods and general warning language for various exposures that are deemed “clear and reasonable” under Proposition 65.

The new regulations provide more specific guidance on the content of these “safe harbor” warnings, and on the corresponding methods for providing such warnings. Notably, the new regulations require the warnings to provide more detailed information to the public, including: (a) a clear statement that a person “can be exposed” to a Listed Chemical (rather than just a statement that a product or area “contains” a Listed Chemical); (b) the names of one or more Listed Chemicals that are the subject of the warning; and (c) a link to a website maintained by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (“OEHHA”) containing supplemental information. The new regulations also establish safe harbor warning methods for internet and catalog sales, requiring that businesses provide the warning on the webpage or in the catalog, as well as on the product. The new regulations may also require businesses to provide the warning in both English and in one or more foreign languages. For example, for consumer product exposures, a business must provide the warning both in English and in any other language used on a product’s sign, label or shelf tag.

The new regulations also clarify the relative responsibilities for providing consumer product exposure warnings between product manufacturers, producers, packagers, importers, suppliers, distributors and retailers. The new regulations require a manufacturer, producer, packager, importer, supplier or distributor of a product that is subject to Proposition 65 either: (1) to affix a warning to the product, or (2) to provide directly to the authorized agent for a retail seller written notice, which, among other things, identifies the exact name or description of the product requiring a notice, and encloses all necessary warning materials such as labels, labeling, shelf signs or tags, and warning language for products sold on the Internet for the products at issue. The written notice must be renewed annually, or within 90 days when a different or additional Listed Chemical or endpoint (cancer or reproductive toxin) needs to be added to the warning.

The retailer, in turn, is responsible for the placement and maintenance of the warning materials, including warnings for products sold over the Internet, that the retailer receives from a manufacturer, producer, packager, importer, supplier or distributor of a product. Similarly, the retailer is responsible for providing the warning if: (1) the retailer is selling the product under its own (or an affiliate’s) brand or trademark; (2) the retailer itself is responsible for introducing a Listed Chemical into the product; or (3) the retailer has covered, obscured, or altered a warning label affixed to the product.

The new regulation becomes operative on August 30, 2018. In the interim, business can comply with the current regulations or the new regulations. Indeed, warnings on products manufactured before the operative date that comply with the current regulations are still considered clear and reasonable. Similarly, a business that is a party to a court-ordered settlement or final judgment establishing a warning method or content is still considered to be providing a “clear and reasonable” warning for purposes of the new regulation, if the warning complies with the order or judgment. Nonetheless, businesses may want to begin planning for the new regulations, particularly if they are contemplating introducing new products to the market, or are contemplating other changes to the labels on their existing products.

Jay W. Connolly is a partner in Seyfarth’s San Francisco office and Aaron Belzer is an associate in the firm’s Los Angeles office. They regularly represent and advise clients in Proposition 65 matters and developments. If you have any questions regarding this development or related issues please contact your Seyfarth Shaw LLP attorney, Jay Connolly at jconnolly@seyfarth.com, or Aaron Belzer at abelzer@seyfarth.com.

FAA Issues Supplemental Rulemaking on Safety Management Systems

Posted in FAA, OSHA Compliance

By Brent I. Clark and Craig B. Simonsen

Private jet plane in the blue skySeyfarth Synopsis: The FAA has gotten closer to a conceptual model for the safety management system requirements and standards that will be required for certified airports.

At the World Safety Organization International Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health Symposium this week we attended a session on the Federal Aviation Administration’s recent Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) on safety management systems  (SMS) for certificated airports. 81 Fed. Reg. 45872 (July 14, 2016) . The session was presented by William G. Thompson, the OSHA/SMS Manager at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The SNRPM was an update for the original Advanced Notice of Rulemaking, published in October 2010. 75 Fed. Reg. 62008. In its news release on the SMS update, the FAA indicated that “SMS is a formal approach to managing an organization’s safety through four key components – safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion. Through the SNPRM, the FAA proposes to integrate proactive hazard identification and risk-management based principles into the day-to-day operations at airports.”

Thompson, in his review of the updates, said that the proposal would now regulate about half as many airports, dropping from 600 covered airports to about 300. In addition, the proposal would now allow more time to submit an implementation plan, going from 6 months to 12 months, and to plan implementation, going from 18 months to 24 months.

To view public comments on the SNPRM, go to:www.regulations.gov using docket no. FAA-2010-0997.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team.

OSHA Sued Over Employee Inspection Walk-Around Rights Interpretation

Posted in Investigations/Inspections, OSHA Compliance

By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

Employee Rights Employment Equality Job Business Commuter ConcepSeyfarth Synopsis: Industry has sued to block OSHA’s efforts to give unions increased access to non-union worksites.

We had blogged previously about OSHA’s new standard interpretation guidance letter that would allow workers without a collective bargaining agreement to designate a union representative to act on their behalf as their “walk-around representative” during an OSHA inspection. We warned at that time that this interpretative guidance was essentially an invitation to allow union representatives access to employees at non-union facilities for the purpose of union organizing.

Last week the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) sued in Federal Court to challenge OSHA’s “illegal administrative expansion” of the “walk-around” right. The NFIB complaint notes that for over four decades OSHA construed the Act to “afford employees a limited right to accompany an OSHA compliance safety and health officer during a workplace inspection.” See 29 C.F.R. § 1903.8.

Under OSHA’s long-standing approach to this provision, an “employee representative” had to be an employee of the employer whose workplace was the subject of the inspection. In very limited cases OSHA might allow for third-party technical specialists to accompany the compliance officer when their presence would be “reasonably necessary.”  OSHA’s guidance letter blows this wide open by allowing a union to serve as the third-party technical specialist even when the union does not represent the employees.

NFIB indicates that OSHA longstanding construction of the Act’s walk-around right accurately captured a delicate legislative balance. “Congress concluded that employees should be allowed to participate in inspections meant to protect their health and safety. But Congress also recognized that this participatory right should not be used as a pretext to facilitate union access to proselytize employees of open-shop businesses….”

According to the Complaint, the NFIB alleges that the real purpose of the change was to facilitate union access to open-shop workplaces. The interpretation “effected these changes without giving the public prior notice or an opportunity to comment. The [interpretation] conflicts with Congress’s purpose behind the Act’s walk-around provision.” NFIM concludes that interpretation’s promulgation also violated the notice-and-comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 553(b)-(c).

We will keep you up-to-date as this case proceeds.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team.

Federal Magistrate Finds OSHA Warrant to Expand Incident Inspection “Improvidently Granted”

Posted in Investigations/Inspections, OSHA Litigation

By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000042612884_MediumSeyfarth Synopsis: In this recent case a Federal Magistrate Judge finds that OSHA has gone too far in expanding an incident inspection into a wall-to-wall inspection.

A District Court Magistrate Judge recently recommended that the Court quash a warrant “improvidently granted” to OSHA to expand an accident investigation into a broader Regional Emphasis Program (REP) inspection. Report and Recommendation (R&R), In the Matter of the Establishment Inspection of Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc., No. 2-16-MC-004-JCF (N.D. GA August 5, 2016).

In attempting to expand the accident investigation into a much broader inspection under the REP, OSHA argued that there was overlap between the hazards that caused the accident and hazards addressed by the REP, as well as information reflected on the Company’s OSHA 300 logs showing work-related injuries leading to medical treatment or days lost from work. The Magistrate found that the fact that there was overlap between the hazards that triggered the accident and the hazards in the REP was not sufficient to expand the inspection to cover everything in the REP.  Rather, the inspection could only be expanded to cover those areas where OSHA had uncovered potential violations, in this case electrical issues.  The Magistrate also found that OSHA’s analysis of the OSHA 300 logs likewise confused “exposure to potential hazards with evidence of a possible violation.” The Magistrate said that “it may be true that enough injuries of a certain type could support a finding of probable cause to inspect an entire facility for a specific violation, but OSHA’s presentation on this point falls well short of that mark.”

The Magistrate found that the question was not whether potential hazards exist (all business have potential hazards), but whether potential OSHA violations existed, and OSHA had not made that showing. OSHA is currently in the process of filing objections to the Magistrate’s ruling in hopes that the District Court Judge will reverse this finding. We will update this blog once the District Court rules.

For employers, the important take-away from this case is that without specific and well-founded evidence of a potential OSHA violation, OSHA is not entitled to turn an incident inspection into a wall-to-wall inspection.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team.

New GAO Report Highlights Challenges in Complying with Conflicts Minerals Rule

Posted in SEC

By Ilana R. Morady

nugget goldSeyfarth Synopsis: Companies are experiencing difficulties in complying with their disclosure responsibilities under the SEC’s conflict mineral requirements.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report to Congress on the effectiveness of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) conflict minerals rule, finding that companies are experiencing difficulties in fulfilling their disclosure responsibilities.

The SEC adopted the conflict mineral disclosure requirement in 2012. The rule requires companies to report on the use of conflict minerals from countries in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) region in Africa. The rule came about because of concerns that the exploitation and trade of conflict minerals by armed groups is helping to finance conflict in the DRC region and is contributing to a humanitarian crisis. The rule applies to any company that uses minerals including tantalum, tin, gold or tungsten if: (a) The company files reports with the SEC under the Exchange Act; and (2) the minerals are “necessary to the functionality or production” of a product manufactured or contracted to be manufactured by the company.

In its report, the GAO found that although some sourcing initiatives have been developed to assist companies with their reporting obligations, a majority of companies have reported to the SEC that they were unable to determine the country of origin of the conflict minerals used in their products. It appears that some companies are unable to make the determination because suppliers will not respond to their inquiries. Layered and complicated supplied chains can also create confusion and delay, especially when companies use and purchase minerals from multiple suppliers.

In addition, the report found that the Department of Commerce, which is required under the Dodd-Frank Act to assess the accuracy of the independent private sector audits that accompany the conflict minerals disclosure, has not submitted a report on its assessment of the accuracy of the independent private sector audits or other due diligence efforts by reporting companies. The GAO said that until the Department of Commerce takes action in this regard, companies subject to the reporting rule lack information about best practices for responding to the conflict minerals rule.

The GAO report underscores the difficulty companies are having with disclosing information about their use of conflict minerals. Despite this difficulty, and the lack of information about best practices, companies subject to the disclosure rule should continue to do their best to determine the source of conflict minerals used in their products.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the author, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Policies and Handbooks Team.

OSHA Responds to Manufacturers’ Lawsuit on New Workplace Injury and Illness Reporting Rule

Posted in OSHA Compliance, OSHA Litigation

By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

worksafetySeyfarth Synopsis: OSHA asserts that its new injury illness reporting rule is fully within OSHA’s mandate.

This is in follow-up to our earlier blog on OSHA’s new rule, Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses (Rule), 81 Fed. Reg. 29624 (May 12, 2016). The new rule concerned drug-testing, retaliation claims, and accident reporting.

The National Association of Manufacturers filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin the new rule. TEXO ABC/AGC, et al. v. Thomas, et al., No. 3:16-CV-1998 (N.D. TX July 8, 2016). Thereafter OSHA announced that it was delaying the effective date for enforcement of the rule until November 1, 2016.

In TEXO ABC/AGC the Plaintiffs alleged that OSHA is “putting a target on nearly every manufacturer in this country by moving this regulation forward. Not only does OSHA lack statutory authority to enforce this rule, but the agency has also failed to recognize the infeasibility, costs and real-world impacts of what it preposterously suggests is just a mere tweak to a major regulation.” The lawsuit sought a declaratory judgment finding that the rule was unlawful to the extent that it prohibited or otherwise limited incident-based employer safety incentive programs and routine mandatory post-accident drug testing programs.

On August 19, 2016 OSHA responded to the request for a preliminary injunction, filing its opposition. OSHA argues that as the “Plaintiffs have not established a likelihood of success or irreparable harm, the Court need not consider the balance of equities or public interest. Even if it did, though, they tip sharply against injunctive relief in this case. Plaintiffs have established no harm at all, much less irreparable harm. OSHA, by contrast, has determined that the anti-retaliation provision is necessary for the viability of its broader recordkeeping Rule, which takes effect January 1, 2017.”

We anticipate that the Plaintiffs will file a reply brief shortly, followed by oral arguments before the Court. We will keep you updated as this fast moving issue develops.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team.

OSHA Pilots New Expedited Whistleblower Process – Will Allow Complainants to Request Judicial Review

Posted in Whistleblower

By James L. Curtis, Benjamin D. Briggs, and Craig B. Simonsen

shutterstock_150166427Seyfarth Synopsis: The DOL announced this week its new Whistleblower expedited Case review pilot process, to be conducted in its Region 9. Employers in this region may now anticipate even more cases going to the ALJ’s, and should watch these cases closely.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is launching a new “Expedited Case Processing Pilot” process in its Region 9. The process will allow complainants covered by certain statutes to ask the  Occupational Safety and Health Administration to cease its investigation and issue findings for the DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges to consider.

In piloting this process, the DOL stated that “OSHA’s investigation process can take time, and complainants may be able to receive a determination more quickly without losing their rights to a hearing by electing to expedite OSHA’s processing of their claims.” Barbara Goto, OSHA’s Regional Administrator in San Francisco, noted that “the ultimate goal is to bring about quicker resolution for whistleblowers and their employers regarding claims of retaliation for reporting safety and other concerns on the job.”

Under the pilot, in Region 9, once a complainant requests expedited processing, the case may be assessed for these criteria:

  • The claim is filed under a statute that allows for de novo review by an administrative law judge.
  • Depending on the statute, 30 or 60 days have passed from the date the complainant first filed with the claim with OSHA.
  • OSHA has interviewed the complainant.
  • Federal investigators have evaluated the complaint and the complainant’s interview to determine whether the basic elements of a retaliation claim exist.
  • Both the complainant and the respondent have had the opportunity to submit written responses, meet with an OSHA investigator and present statements from witnesses.
  • The complainant has received a copy of the respondent’s submissions and had an opportunity to respond.

If these criteria are met, a determination will be made on the complainant’s request for expedited processing – including “whether reasonable cause exists to believe that a violation of the statute occurred.” Under the pilot, OSHA officials may then take one of three actions: dismiss the claim and inform the complainant of the right to proceed before an administrative law judge; issue merit findings as expeditiously as possible; or deny the request.

The pilot became effective on August 1, 2016, in Region 9, including California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, and the islands of American Samoa, CNMI and Guam.

Employers in this region may anticipate now even more cases going to the DOL’s ALJ’s, and should watch these cases closely.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of twenty-two statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety, and consumer financial reform regulations.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Whistleblower Team or the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team.

Tenth Circuit Orders Truck Driver Who Abandoned Trailer on Interstate Highway to be Reinstated with Backpay

Posted in Administrative Procedure Act, OSHA Litigation, Transportation, Whistleblower

By Benjamin D. Briggs, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

shutterstock_150166427Seyfarth Synopsis: The Tenth Circuit held that a trucking company unlawfully retaliated against a truck driver after he abandoned a trailer on a public highway, finding that his actions constituted a protected refusal to operate a vehicle in unsafe conditions.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition for review of a retaliation finding by the Administrative Review Board (ARB), finding that the employee had been retaliated against in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). TransAm Trucking, Inc. v. Department of Labor, No. 15-9504 (Tenth Circuit August 8, 2016),

The Court explained that the driver parked a tractor-trailer on the shoulder of an interstate highway. After sitting in sub-freezing temperatures, the brake lines on the trailer froze and rendered the trailer immobile. When a service vehicle failed to arrive and the driver’s heating unit stopped functioning, the driver detached the trailer and drove away in the tractor.

After his termination, the employee filed a whistleblower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency within the Department of Labor (DOL) that administers STAA claims, asserting that the employer violated the whistleblower provisions of the STAA when it discharged him. After OSHA dismissed the driver’s complaint, the employee requested a hearing before a DOL administrative law judge (ALJ).

The employer argued that the driver’s actions were not protected under the STAA, which only creates a whistleblower claim for an employee who “refuses to operate a vehicle because … the employee has a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to the employee or the public because of the vehicle’s hazardous safety or security condition,” 49 U.S.C. § 31105(a)(1)(B)(ii). Because the trailer was inoperable and the driver drove off without it, the employer argued that the driver could not have refused to “operate” in unsafe conditions; but, rather, he abandoned company property.

The ALJ concluded that the driver had engaged in protected activity when he reported the frozen brake issue to the employer, and again when he refused to obey the instruction to drive the truck while pulling the trailer. The ALJ further concluded that the protected activity was a contributing factor in the employer’s decision to terminate his employment because his refusal to operate the truck while pulling the trailer was “inextricably intertwined” with the employer’s decision to terminate him for abandoning the trailer at the side of the highway. The employer appealed to the DOL Administrative Review Board (ARB) (which affirmed the ALJ’s decision) and then to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In denying the employer’s appeal, the Tenth Circuit noted that the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) “standard of review is narrow and highly deferential to the agency.” Compass Envtl., Inc., v. Occupational Safety & Health Review Comm’n, 663 F.3d 1164, 1167 (10th Cir. 2011).  The Court concluded that the driver had refused to operate the vehicle when he left the trailer behind.  Consequently, the Court upheld the ARB decision and ordered the driver to be reinstated with backpay.

This case should remind employers that the DOL takes an expansive view of the whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA, and the kind of actions that constitute protected activity under those statutes. In this case, the employer advanced a seemingly non-retaliatory reason for the termination — abandonment of company property — as the reason for the challenged decision.  However, the close connection between the trailer abandonment and the report that the brakes had frozen/refusal to pull the trailer was enough to tip the scales in the employee’s favor.  Employers should exercise extreme caution when making employment decisions under circumstances in which a legitimate reason for discipline bears a close relationship to conduct that may constitute protected activity under a whistleblower statute.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of twenty-two statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety, and consumer financial reform regulations. For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Whistleblower Team or the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board Provides Recommendations to Upgrade Employers’ Emergency Planning and Response Programs

Posted in Catastrophe Response, Chemical Safety, OSHA Compliance

By James L. Curtis, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000011623330_MediumSeyfarth Synopsis: U.S. Chemical Safety Board offers recommendations and best practices for chemical facilities regarding emergency planning and response programs.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (the “Board”) is an independent federal agency charged with investigating significant chemical accidents. According to the Board, inadequate or poor emergency planning or response is a recurring finding in the Board’s investigations of chemical accidents.  To date, 14 Board investigations have found deficiencies in a community’s, facility’s or emergency responder’s response to an incident at a chemical facility

The Board recently announced that emergency planning and response will be added to the Board’s existing “Most Wanted Safety Improvement” Program.  The Board’s also provided 46 recommendations aimed to address the deficiencies the Board found during its investigations.  The Board’s recommendations concentrate on the following areas:

  • Training for emergency responders, including hazardous materials training;
  • Local emergency planning, and community response plans and teams;
  • Use of community notification systems;
  • Use of an incident command system and the National Incident Management System;
  • Conducting emergency response exercises; and
  • Information sharing between facilities, emergency responders and the community.

Employers who operate chemical plants may wish to review and evaluate company emergency planning and response programs, policies, and training initiatives to assess for compliance with the Board’s recommendations. OSHA frequently looks to the Chemical Safety Board for guidance on appropriate areas for enforcement efforts.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team or Workplace Policies and Handbooks Team.