By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth SynopsisThe Senate Nominations Committee, during a December 13, 2017 meeting, approved the Trump nomination of Scott A. Mugno, for the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health,.

Mugno will now move on to the next step, for final approval.

The Congressional website indicates that Mugno has been “placed on Senate Executive Calendar…. Subject to nominee’s commitment to respond to requests to appear and testify before any duly constituted committee of the Senate.”

We will continue to monitor the status of this nomination.

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 James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth SynopsisThe Senate Nominations Committee has scheduled a vote on the Trump nomination, Scott A. Mugno, for the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health.

On December 5, 2017, the Senate held a hearing on Mugno’s nomination.  Interested parties may watch the hearing video through the Senate’s website link.  The Committee is now scheduled to vote on Mugno’s nomination tomorrow, December 13, 2017.  If confirmed, Mugno will serve as the Administrator of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Mungo would replace Dr. David Michaels, who left the Agency last year.

Mugno was most recently the Vice President for Safety, Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx Ground.  Employers are hopeful that Mugno will refocus the Agency away from David Michael’s hard emphasis on enforcement and implement measures designed to improve workplace safety through cooperative compliance programs such as the Voluntary Protection Program (NPP).

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 Andrew H. Perellis, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will not issue a final rule for the Obama-era’s proposed regulations for financial responsibility requirements for certain hardrock mining (HRM) facilities. 82 Fed. Reg. ______ (Dec. __, 2017).

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that “after careful analysis of public comments, the statutory authority, and the record for this rulemaking, EPA is confident that modern industry practices, along with existing state and federal requirements [sufficiently] address risks from operating hardrock mining facilities.”  “Additional financial assurance requirements are unnecessary and would impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy and rural America, where most of these mining jobs are based.”

EPA was under a court ordered deadline to take final action on this rulemaking by December 1, 2017.

EPA’s actions confirm the Trump Administration’s hostility toward regulation. Specifically, EPA concluded that the “degree and duration of risk” associated with the modern hardrock mining industry “does not present a level of risk of taxpayer funded response actions that warrant imposition of financial responsibility requirements under CERCLA for this sector.” According to the Agency, the determination reflected EPA’s interpretation of the statute, EPA’s evaluation of the record for the proposed rule, and the approximately 11,000 public comments received by EPA on this proposed rulemaking.

EPA published proposed HRM financial responsibility regulations under section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund) on January 11, 2017. The public comment period on the docket closed on July 11, 2017. The proposed rule was intended to “increase the likelihood that owners and operators will provide funds necessary to address the CERCLA liabilities at their facilities, thus preventing owners or operators from shifting the burden of cleanup to other parties, including the taxpayer.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s comments on the proposed rule, filed July 11, 2017, called upon EPA to make a determination that no rule was necessary.

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.

By James L. CurtisDaniel Birnbaum, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: NIOSH reiterated last week that healthcare workers are exposed to a wide range of hazards on the job and healthcare employers may not be following best practices to protect against these hazards.

Healthcare is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy, employing over 18 million workers, 80% of which are women.  These healthcare workers face numerous hazards on the job, including sharps injuries, exposures to chemicals and hazardous drugs, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), latex allergy, violence, and stress.

Significantly, there are more cases of healthcare workers suffering nonfatal occupational injury and illnesses than any other industry sector.  In a recent healthcare study, NIOSH found that as to administering aerosolized pentamidine to patients “22% of respondents did not always wear protective gloves, 69% did not always wear protective gowns, and 49% did not always wear respiratory protection….”  NIOSH concluded that there was “a belief that employers do not fully appreciate the potential adverse health effects associated with exposure to these drugs and therefore do not prioritize adherence.”

As to high-level disinfectants, the survey findings showed that best practices to minimize exposure have not been universally implemented.  NIOSH’s survey found that “17% of respondents said they never received training and, of those who received training, 42% said that it was more than 12 months ago.  19% of respondents said that employer safe handling procedures were unavailable.”  “44% of respondents did not always wear a protective gown and 9% did not always wear protective gloves.”

Critically, NIOSH concluded that employers and employees did not always follow best practices.

For healthcare employers this conclusion should be a red-flag as to the overall quality of their safety and health policies.  Healthcare employers should consult with safety professionals who are well versed in the areas where the employers may be out of touch with best practices.  Such consultations can enhance employee safety and help avoid liabilities associated with OSHA violations.

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 or the Workplace Counseling & Solutions Team.

By Brent I. ClarkJames L. CurtisBenjamin D. BriggsMark A. Lies, IIIlana R. Morady, and Patrick D. Joyce,

Seyfarth Synopsis:  OSHA’s has indicated in a news release that it “intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to reconsider, revise, or remove portions” of the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule, in 2018.

We recently blogged on OSHA’s notice that the deadline for submitting 2016 Form 300A for establishments with 250 or more employees (or with 20-249 employees operating in what OSHA deems to be “high-risk industries”) was delayed to December 15, 2017.

Also included in the notice delaying the submission deadline to December 15, 2017 was an indication that OSHA “intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking to reconsider, revise, or remove portions” of the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule, in 2018. This is the first written indication by OSHA of a timeline by which it intends to “reconsider, revise, or remove portions” of the Rule, and may signal welcome relief from certain requirements strongly opposed by the employer community.

We will continue to monitor OSHA’s activities relating to this 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 James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: Senate hearing scheduled for the White House pick, Scott A. Mugno, as the new Administrator of  OSHA.

We noted previously that the White House announced on October 27th that it had nominated Scott A. Mugno to be the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health.  If confirmed, Mr. Mugno will serve as the Administrator of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  Mr. Mungo would replace Dr. David Michaels, who left the Agency on January 10, 2017.

The Senate has now scheduled its hearing on the Mugno nomination for next week, Tuesday, December 5, 2017.  Interested parties may watch the hearing live through the Senate’s website link.

Mr. Mugno was most recently the Vice President for Safety, Sustainability and Vehicle Maintenance at FedEx Ground.  If he is confirmed, employers are hopeful that Mr. Mugno will refocus the Agency away from David Michael’s hard emphasis on enforcement and implement measures designed to improve workplace safety through cooperative compliance programs such as the Voluntary Protection Program (NPP).

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 Andrew H. Perellis, Patrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule that would add an applicability date two years in the future to the Obama-era Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. 82 Fed. Reg. 55542 (Nov. 22, 2017).

The WOTUS rulemaking has been frought with controversy, and has generated well over a million public comments.

We have previously blogged on the WOTUS rulemaking. See Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law … by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule, EPA and Army Corps of Engineers Propose to Rescind Obama Era Rule Redefining “Waters of the United States”, EPA Publishes Final Rule Expanding Definition of “Waters of the United States” Under the Clean Water Act, Proposed Rule on Definition of “Waters of the United States” Under the Clean Water Act, and New Definition of “Waters of the United States”?

The November 22, 2017 proposed rule would extend the applicability date of the Obama-era 2015 WOTUS Rule by two years beyond the comment period, which closes on December 13, 2017. Should the November 22, 2017 proposed rule become “final” on that same day, which is unlikely, the earliest the 2015 WOTUS Rule could be “applicable” is December 13, 2019.

EPA claims that this applicability extension “would give the agencies the time needed to “fully reconsider” the definition of ‘waters of the United States’.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said of this proposal that it “shows our commitment to our state and tribal partners and to providing regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and businesses…. This step will allow us to minimize confusion as we continue to receive input from across the country on how we should revise the definition of the ‘waters of the United States’.”

EPA also reiterated that the November 22, 2017 proposed rule is separate from the ongoing two-step process the Agencies are currently undertaking to reconsider and potentially revise the 2015 WOTUS Rule. The comment period for Step 1 of the reconsideration closed in September, receiving just under 700,000 comments. Meanwhile, the agencies are still reviewing the 1.1+ million comments received from the public for the 2015 Obama-era WOTUS Rule. The Agencies are also in the process of holding “listening sessions” with stakeholders to assist the Agencies in developing a proposed Step 2 rule that would again revise the definition of “waters of the United States.”

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.

By Brent I. ClarkJames L. CurtisBenjamin D. BriggsMark A. Lies, IIIlana R. Morady, and Patrick D. Joyce

Seyfarth Synopsis:  As most employers probably know by now, OSHA’s revised recordkeeping rule requires certain employers to electronically file injury and illness data with OSHA. Originally the reporting deadline was July 1, 2017. OSHA has again extended the deadline, this time to December 15, 2017.

During the previous extension period, it appeared that OSHA might be reconsidering the rule, with a possibility of modifications or a complete revocation of the rule by December 1, 2017. However with the recent extension to December 15, it appears that the rule will remain unchanged for the time being and that covered employers must report by the new deadline.

As a reminder, establishments with 250 or more employees must submit information electronically from their 2016 Form 300A by December 15, 2017. These same employers will be required to submit information from all 2017 forms (300A, 300, and 301) beginning in 2018.

Establishments with 20-249 employees operating in what OSHA deems to be “high-risk industries” (including department stores, nursing homes, construction) must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by the December 15, 2017 deadline. These same employers will continue to only submit information from their 300A forms in later years.

Although OSHA’s electronic reporting webpage experienced malfunctions earlier this year, the webpage now appears to be working.

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: President Trump’s selection for Administrator at MSHA has been confirmed this week by the Senate.

In a 52-46 vote, David G. Zatezalo, of West Virginia, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate this week, on November 15, 2017, to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health (MSHA). The vote was along party lines, with Zatezalo  getting 52 Republican votes.

Zatezalo has deep roots in the mining industry, including a Mining Engineering degree from West Virginia University in 1977, and having become a Professional Engineer and received an award for high grade on the mining exam in 1981.  According to the Whitehouse press release, “Zatezalo began his mining career in 1974 with Consolidation Coal Company as a UMWA Laborer, became a foreman and subsequently General Superintendent for Southern Ohio Coal Company and General Manager of AEP’s Windsor Coal Company. He later rose to be Vice-President of Operations of AEP’s Appalachian Mining Operations.”  He had also served as Chairman, President, CEO, and COO of Rhino Resources GP, LLC, and as President of Hopedale Mining, LLC.

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 Frederick T. Smith, Jennifer L. Mora, and Christopher W. Kelleher

Seyfarth Synopsis: On November 13, 2017, the Department of Transportation amended its drug testing program regulation which, among other things, adds certain semi-synthetic opioids to its drug testing panel.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has published its long-awaited final rule amending its drug testing program for DOT-regulated employers. The new rule comes in the wake of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revised “Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs” which became effective on October 1, 2017.

The new DOT rule makes the following significant changes:

  • Adding four semi-synthetic opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone) to the drug testing panel, which is “intended to help address the nation-wide epidemic of opioid abuse” and create safer conditions for transportation industries and the public;
  • Adding methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an initial test analyte because, in addition to being considered a drug of abuse, it is a metabolite of methylenedioxyethylamphetaime (MDEA) and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“MDMA”), and such testing potentially acts as a deterrent;
  • Removing testing for MDEA from the existing drug testing panel;
  • Removing the requirement for employers and consortium/third party administrators (C/TPAs) to submit blind specimens in order to relieve unnecessary burdens on employers, C/TPAs, and other parties; and
  • Adding three “fatal flaws” to the list of when a laboratory would reject a specimen and modifying the “shy bladder” process so that the collector will discard certain questionable specimens.

The new rule goes into effect on January 1, 2018. Employers who comply with DOT standards when drug testing should modify their drug testing policies accordingly. Employers that are not subject to DOT requirements, but comply with the HHS Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs also should consider whether to modify their drug testing policies to comply with the new rules and guidelines.

If you have questions about the new regulations or employee drug testing in general, please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the  Labor & Employment or Workplace Policies and Handbooks Teams.