By Brent I. Clark, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA recently released new publications directed towards safety professionals and managers. The publications offer guidance on what to look for during worksite safety check walk-arounds.  In addition, OSHA suggests that the employer’s completed 300 logs may be used by the employer as a guide to improving worksite safety.

The publications are Safety Walk-Around for Managers, Walk-Arounds for Safety Officers, and That Was No Accident! Using Your OSHA 300 Log to Improve Safety and Health.  While these publications may be useful tools to supplement current workplace safety programs and policies, these should not be considered rules or templates for adoption.  Each workplace is different and compliance may vary substantially from location to location.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Benjamin D. Briggs, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has just reminded temporary staffing agencies and their clients (i.e., host employers) that they are jointly responsible for a  temporary employee’s safety and health in two new guidance documents relating to respiratory protection, noise exposure, and hearing conservation. Temporary agencies and host employers that use their services should review this guidance in carrying out their shared responsibility for temporary worker safety.

Nearly two years after the last bulletin, OSHA has just released two new temporary worker bulletins relating to respiratory protection, noise exposure, and hearing conservation.  See Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) Bulletin No. 8 – Respiratory Protection, and Temporary Worker Initiative Bulletin No. 9 – Noise Exposure and hearing Conservation.

We have blogged previously about OSHA’s enforcement activities and guidance documents relating to temporary workers: “OSHA Releases Two More Temporary Worker Guidance Documents,” “New Guidance for ‘Recommended Practices’ to Protect Temporary Workers,” “OSHA Issues Memo to ‘Remind’ its Field Staff about Enforcement Policy on Temporary Workers,” and “OSHRC Reviews Employment Relationships.”

Under TWI Bulletin No. 8, OSHA notes that both the host employer and staffing agency are “jointly responsible to ensure workers wear appropriate respirators when required. While both the host and the staffing agency are responsible to ensure that the employee is properly protected in accordance with the standard, the employers may decide that a division of the responsibility may be appropriate. Neither the host nor the staffing agency can require workers to provide or pay for their own respiratory protection when it is required.”

Under TWI Bulletin No. 9, OSHA notes that both the host employer and staffing agency are jointly responsible for ensuring that “workers receive protection from hazardous noise levels when it is required under OSHA standards. Neither the host nor the staffing agency can require workers to provide or pay for their own hearing protection devices or require workers to purchase such devices as a condition of employment or placement. In addition, employees must be paid for the time spent receiving their audiograms, and the audiograms must be at no cost to the employee.”

Employer Takeaway

It is OSHA’s view that staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for temporary workers’ safety and health. However, as the two newly published bulletin’s make clear, fulfilling the shared responsibility for temporary worker safety requires thoughtful coordination between staffing agencies and host employers. OSHA has previously acknowledged that a host employer may have more knowledge of the specific hazards associated with the host worksite, while the staffing agency has a more generalized safety responsibility to the employees. As a result, OSHA allows host employers and staffing agencies to divide training responsibilities based upon their respective knowledge of the hazards associated with the specific worksite. While host employers will typically have primary responsibility for training and communication regarding site specific hazards, staffing agencies must make reasonable inquiries to verify that the host employer is meeting these requirements.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Jeryl L. OlsonPatrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: Last week before his departure USEPA Administrator Pruitt notified the regulated community that he had directed the Agency to update regulations governing the Agency’s use of Section 404(c) veto power in permitting discharges of dredged or fill materials under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) current regulations implementing Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404(c) allow the Agency to veto at any time during the permitting process a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) under CWA section 404(a) that allows for the discharge of dredged or fill material at permitted sites.  USEPA has historically taken the position that it can preemptively veto a permit before, during or after a 404(a) application is filed or a permit is issued.

In a memorandum last week, USEPA Administrator E. Scott Pruitt directed the Office of Water to develop a proposed rulemaking that would end USEPA’s preemptory and retroactive 404(c) veto power. Administrator Pruitt said that it was his goal to refocus EPA “on its core mission of protecting public health and the environment in a way that is fair and consistent with due process.”  He continued that EPA “must ensure that EPA exercises its authority under the Clean Water Act in a careful, predictable, and prudent manner.”

Administrator Pruitt indicated that the “regulations were last revised nearly 40 years ago“ and “EPA’s regulations should reflect today’s permitting process and modern-day methods and protections, including the robust existing processes under the National Environmental Policy Act.”

Accordingly, the memo directs USEPA’s Office of Water to develop a proposed rulemaking that would consider the following changes:

  • Eliminating the USEPA authority to initiate the section 404(c) process before a USACE 404(a) permit application has been filed with the USACE or a state, otherwise known as the “preemptive veto.”
  • Eliminating the authority of USEPA to initiate the section 404(c) veto process after a USACE 404(a) permit has been issued by the USACE or a state, otherwise known as the “retroactive veto.”
  • Requiring a Regional Administrator to obtain approval from USEPA Headquarters before initiating the section 404(c) veto process over a USACE 404(a) permit.
  • Requiring a Regional Administrator to review and consider the findings of an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the USACE before preparing and publishing notice of a proposed determination.
  • Requiring USEPA to publish and seek public comment on a final USEPA determination before such a determination takes effect.

We have previously blogged on related wetlands topics, including Supreme Court to Decide if Army Corps Initial Jurisdictional Determination to Regulate Wetlands Under CWA is Ripe for Judicial Review, Sackett v. EPA: Supreme Court Decides Unanimously In Favor Of Landowners, and New Wetlands Definition.

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

By James L. CurtisPatrick D. Joyce, and  Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA reminded specific employers on Monday that the deadline for electronically submitting their 2017 Form 300A data to OSHA is July 1, 2018.

Electronic submission of 2017 Form 300A data is due by July 1, 2018 for establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in specific industries. Form 300As should be submitted using OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA).

Each establishment’s Form 300A for 2018 will be due March 2, 2019. We will continue to monitor OSHA’s activities relating to this rule. OSHA has indicated that it will be reviewing the rule and will be issuing future guidance or revisions.

Employers operating facilities in state plan states should check with their local state plan office to confirm each individual state’s e-filing requirements. For example, Kentucky OSHA requires e-filing using Federal OSHA’s ITA, while the State of  Washington has indicated that employers with facilities in Washington State are not required to e-file on Federal OSHA’s ITA.

We have previously blogged concerning OSHA’s contentious electronic reporting rules.  See All State Plan Employers are Now Required to Electronically File 2017 Form 300A Data, OSHA Intends to “Reconsider, Revise, or Remove Portions” of Injury and Illness E-Reporting Rule Next Year, OSHA Delays Electronic Filing Date for Injury and Illness Records Until December 1, 2017, and Despite Lawsuit, OSHA Publishes Interpretation for New Workplace Injury and Illness Reporting Rule.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the author, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Brent I. ClarkIlana R. Morady, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: MSHA just announced a Request for Information (RFI) on safety improvement technologies for mobile equipment and for belt conveyors, both at surface mines. 83 Fed. Reg. 29716 (June 26, 2018).

In its RFI MSHA notes that “mining safety could be substantially improved by preventing accidents that involve mobile equipment at surface coal mines and metal and nonmetal mines and belt conveyors at surface and underground mines.”  As part of an “Awareness Campaign” on mobile equipment and conveyor belts, MSHA is seeking information on the role of engineering controls that that might (1) increase the use of seatbelts, (2) enhance the equipment operator’s ability to see all areas near the machine, (3) warn operators of potential collision hazards, (4) prevent operators from driving over a highwall or dump point, and (5) prevent entanglement hazards near moving or re-energized conveyor belts.  MSHA indicates that it is requesting this information and data to reduce the risk of accidents and to improve miner safety.

MSHA is also indicating that it will hold stakeholder meetings to provide interested stakeholders with an opportunity to discuss and share information about the issues raised in the RFI.  It will publish a separate notice announcing the stakeholder meetings in the Federal Register at a later date.

Comments and responses to the RFI are due by December 24, 2018.  Submissions and responses to the RFI may be found at docket number MSHA_FRDOC_0001.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of Seyfarth’s Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Mark A. Lies, IIAdam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: A recent Eastern District of Wisconsin case held that an OSHA 11(c) retaliation claim will survive summary judgment where the employer failed to comply with its own investigation procedures.

In Acosta v Dura-Fibre, No. 17-C-589, 27 OSHC 1179 (ED Wis. May 30, 2018), under the employer’s, Dura-Fibre, LLC’s (Employer), Accident Reporting/Investigation Plan (Injury Reporting Policy), if an employee is injured or almost injured at work, he must report the injury or “near miss.”  The Employer instituted the Injury Reporting Policy to emphasize timeliness in reporting injuries and to create a “near miss” program to increase reports of unsafe acts that did not result in injury.   The Injury Reporting Policy required that an employee notify a supervisor of an accident or “near miss” as soon as possible, or by the end of the employee’s shift.  The Injury Reporting Policy defined accident as “any occurrence that led to physical harm or injury to an employee and/or led to damage of company property” and near miss as “any occurrence that did not result in an accident but could have.”

The Employer required that employees report all injuries, even if the employee did not consider the injury to be serious.  Any employee that failed to report an accident or near miss in a timely manner could be subjected to discipline up to and including termination.  After the company’s assessment of the injury report, a “Safety Incident Report” would be prepared that determined whether the employee should receive disciplinary points in accordance with the Employer’s 24-point disciplinary program.  Under the disciplinary program, employees may be assigned a designated number of points for violations of the company’s rules and policies, such as failing to report an injury to a supervisor by the end of his shift, failing to use safety equipment, or committing an “unsafe act.”

The Injury Reporting Policy does not, though, define the phrase “unsafe act.” With the uncertain definition of the term “unsafe act” and the disciplinary points employees could receive for committing an “unsafe act,” the Secretary argued that employees were naturally reluctant to report injuries or illnesses they sustained.

The Court noted that as such, employees who suffered injuries on the job found themselves in a classic “catch 22”: “if they are injured at work, they must report the injury to a supervisor or face discipline, but if they do report an injury, management may well conclude the injury resulted from their own unsafe act for which they will also face discipline. Either way, the employee risks discipline.”  It is in this context that this claim arises.

The Secretary asserted that the Employer violated section 11(c) the OSH Act when it retaliated against the Employee by assessing him disciplinary points after he reported injuries on two separate occasions, and then ultimately terminated him under its disciplinary policy.

The Employer did not dispute that the Secretary had satisfied the first and second elements of the prima facie case.  The Employee engaged in protected activity when he reported to company management that he injured his ankle and another employee injured his shoulder. The Employee suffered three adverse actions in the form of disciplinary points for the late reporting of the other employee’s injury, and for engaging in an unsafe act in relation to his own injury, as well as termination of his employment.

The Court found sufficient evidence of pretext from two sources.  First, the Company did not discipline employees who reported “unsafe acts” relating to near misses.  Accordingly, the Court concluded that injured employees were allegedly more likely to be disciplined and thereby deterred from reporting .  Second, the Court noted that the Employer failed to follow its own accident investigation procedures.  The Court found a  technical “apparent deviation” from the procedure enough to be a triable issue, and denied summary judgment.  The case will proceed to trial.

Accordingly, employers need to maintain reporting policies with regard to all unsafe acts, near misses, and accidents.  Employers must consistently investigate accidents and enforce all safety rules.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the author, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Teams.

By James L. Curtis, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has just released a Memorandum on the Enforcement Launch for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard in General Industry and Maritime rules.

In its June 7, 2018 Memorandum about the new Crystalline Silica Standard OSHA states that it will shortly issue interim enforcement guidance until a compliance directive on the new standards is finalized.

The OSHA Memorandum also declares that during the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA “will assist employers that are making good faith efforts to meet the new standard’s requirements.  If upon inspection, it appears an employer is not making any efforts to comply, compliance officers should conduct air monitoring in accordance with Agency procedures, and consider citations for non-compliance with any applicable sections of the new standard.  Any proposed citations related to inspections conducted in this 30-day time period will require National Office review prior to issuance.”

Most of the provisions of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry and Maritime, 29 CFR § 1910.1053, will become enforceable on June 23, 2018. The standard establishes a new 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 µg/m3, an action level (AL) of 25 µg/m3, and additional ancillary requirements.

We have previously blogged on the new silica standard.  See OSHA Publishes Crystalline Silica Standards Rule Fact Sheets for Construction, Circuit Court Finds OSHA Failed to Adequately Explain the Crystalline Silica Standards Rule, and OSHA Publishes “Small Entity Compliance” Guides for the Crystalline Silica Standards.

For employers and industry stakeholders, OSHA provides a General Industry and Maritime Fact Sheet with a summary of the new regulatory requirements under the rule. OSHA also provides a Small Entity Compliance Guide for small entities.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Brent I. Clark, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent report indicates that vector-borne diseases are a rising causes of illness for outdoor workers in the United States.  Vital Signs: Trends in Reported Vectorborne Disease Cases — United States and Territories, 2004–2016 (May 4, 2018).  As summer approaches, employers in the construction, landscaping, outdoor hospitality, and other outdoor industries should take steps to inform and protect their workers from vector-borne disease.

In its report, the CDC found that the most common vector-borne pathogens in the United States are transmitted by ticks or mosquitoes, including those causing Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and West Nile, dengue, and Zika virus diseases.  This CDC report examined trends in nationally reportable vector-borne diseases between 2004–2016. We have previously written about Zika, including, Zika – Employer Liability Issues and Zika Virus Spreading to United States: OSHA Provides Recommendations.

Due to the outdoor nature of certain types of work, such as construction, landscaping, and outdoor hospitality work such as at golf courses and pools, employers should be mindful of informing their employees on how to protect themselves from vector-borne diseases, how to recognize the symptoms of vector-borne diseases, and what to do if they believe they have contracted a vectorborne disease.

According to the CDC, the following diseases are currently reported as being transmitted somewhere in the United States, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa:

  • Lyme disease;
  • West Nile, dengue and Zika virus diseases;
  • Plague (Yersinia pestis); and
  • Spotted fever rickettsioses.

CDC notes that malaria and yellow fever are no longer transmitted in the United States but have the potential to be reintroduced.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides limited guidance (Lyme Disease, Zika) for employers in the construction or outdoor-services industries. However, this guidance is generally applicable to help prevent any vector-borne disease:

  • Avoid brushy, overgrown grassy, and wooded habitats;
  • Remove leaves, tall grass, and brush from areas surrounding work areas or residential areas, thereby reducing tick, deer, and rodent habitat;
  • Eliminate sources of standing water (e.g., tires, buckets, cans, bottles, barrels) whenever possible to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding areas. Train workers about the importance of eliminating areas where mosquitos can breed at the worksite;
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and tucking pant legs into socks or boots to prevent ticks and mosquitos from reaching the skin;
  • Wear high boots or closed shoes that cover the entire foot;
  • Wear a hat with mosquito netting;
  • Spray insect repellents (containing DEET) on exposed skin, excluding the face. Use permethrin on clothes to kill ticks on contact) (don’t forget hazard communication training);
  • Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be more easily seen and removed before attachment occurs;
  • Check the body carefully for ticks or mosquito bites; if ticks are found, promptly removing them with tweezers. (DO NOT use petroleum jelly, a hot match, nail polish, or other products to remove the tick).

According to the CDC, between 2004-2016, a total 642,602 cases of vector-borne diseases were reported.  During this time, tick-borne bacterial and protozoan diseases more than doubled, from over 22,000 in 2004 to over 48,000 in 2016. Lyme disease accounted for 82% of all tick-borne disease reported across the continental United States. Mosquito-transmission in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa accounted for most reports of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika virus diseases, while West Nile virus, transmitted by mosquito, was reported across the continental United States.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the author, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Team.

By Brent I. ClarkAdam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has scheduled a meeting on June 12, 2018, in Washington, D.C., to solicit comments and suggestions from stakeholders in the trucking and railroad industries, on whistleblower issues within OSHA’s purview.  83 Fed. Reg. 19838 (May 4, 2018). 

Through its whistleblower division, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 separate statutes, including:

  • The Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA), which applies to trucking and transportation regulations;
  • The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), which applies to motor vehicle safety information; and
  • The Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), which applies to railroad safety.

OSHA has scheduled the June 12, 2018 meeting to obtaining information from employers and other interest groups on key issues facing the Agency’s Whistleblower program in the trucking and railroad industries.  OSHA indicates that this meeting will be the “first in a series of meetings requesting public input on this program.”  For this first meeting, OSHA is inviting comments on the following very basic questions:

  1. How can OSHA deliver better whistleblower customer service?
  2. What kind of assistance can OSHA provide to help explain the whistleblower laws it enforces?

The meeting is open to the public, and will be held from 1:00-3:00 p.m., in Washington, DC.

Note that individuals interested in participating or attending the meeting, either in-person or by telephone, must register by May 29, 2018, at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/occupational-safety-and-health-administration-stakeholder-meeting-registration-45311347460.

In addition, written comments or other materials should be submitted electronically, directly to the Federal eRulemaking Portal, using OSHA Docket No. OSHA-2018-0005.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Whistleblower or Workplace Safety and Health (OSHA/MSHA) Teams.

Seyfarth Synopsis: This morning our panel from Seyfarth’s Workplace Safety team led a briefing on OSHA regulation and enforcement under the Trump Administration. 

One year into the Trump Administration, employers’ expectations for a more business-friendly Agency have not yet materialized, as the still-leaderless Agency proceeds ahead with widespread aggressive enforcement. The panel addressed recent developments and trends our Group has seen from federal OSHA, including the stalled nomination of Scott Mugno to head the Agency.  The panel also discussed:

  • Continued Aggressive Enforcement Trends Under the Trump Administration
  • Ongoing OSHA Initiatives such as Electronic Reporting
  • Workplace Violence
  • The Rise of Whistleblowers
  • Best Practices for Managing an OSHA Inspection

Finally, the panel discussed practical tips to guide employers in this new regulatory environment.

If you were able to attend, thank you very much.  If not, see you next time. Either way, here are our presentation slides. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions on the materials.

For more information on Seyfarth’s Workplace Safety and Environmental team, see our recent blog posts and articles.