By Mark A. Lies, IIJames L. CurtisDaniel Birnbaum, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis:  New Review Commission decision refines the definition of what OSHA must prove to establish a “Repeat” violation.

On September 30, 2008, OSHA issued a citation to Angelica Textile Services, Inc., a commercial laundry, alleging ten Serious and four Repeat items. Seyfarth represented the employer, Angelica Textile Services, Inc. After the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment, the Administrative Law Judge issued a decision affirming two of the Serious items and vacating the remaining twelve items, including the Repeat citations. The Secretary of Labor appealed, arguing that the judge improperly vacated two Repeat citations that alleged deficiencies of permit required confined spaces (PRCS) and lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures.

On July 24, 2018, nearly a decade after the citations were issued, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (Commission) affirmed the previously vacated citation items, but characterized and reclassified them as Serious rather than Repeat violations, and issued a single reduced penalty of $7,000. See Secretary of Labor v. Angelica Textile Services, Inc., No. 08-1774.

Most importantly, the Commission refined the definition of what OSHA must prove to establish a Repeat violation. OSHA has traditionally taken the position that all the evidence it had to show to meet the “substantial similarity” standard was merely that the same type of equipment, process or regulation that was involved in the current violation was also involved in a prior final citation which served as the basis for the Repeat violation. In the Angelica decision, the Commission clarified that a showing of “substantial similarity” can be rebutted with a showing of “disparate conditions and hazards associated with these violations of the same standard.”

The decision also refined what defenses an employer may have to a Repeat citation based on the abatement actions it took to abate the earlier violation. Applied to the facts of the case, the Commission noted that the prior PRCS citation identified “critical deficiencies” in the employer’s compliance program.  However, in response to the prior citation, the Company “actively sought out and eliminated similar hazards,” including developing a PRCS program specific to the condition cited.

The majority in Angelica noted that the Company’s prior abatement efforts also resulted in reduced citations in the current matter.  Similarly, the Commission noted that the prior LOTO citation to the Company had identified a “comprehensive failure of compliance.”  However, the present case involved procedures established in the interim, as well as surveys completed for machines that the Company had undertaken in response to the prior violations.  Rather than lacking the previous comprehensive procedures as was the case in the earlier citations, there were only two discrete deficiencies in the employer’s current program.

Significantly, the Commission also remarked in a footnote that the Secretary had accepted the Company’s prior abatement method, thus giving no basis for OSHA to conclude that the Company knew that its interim safety precautions and corrective actions were not compliant.

After comparing the employer’s attempts at compliance with the prior and subsequent citations, the Commission reasoned that, while the prior citations had been based on a complete failure to comply, the current citations reflected only minimal deficiencies. In other words, “[the Company] took affirmative steps to achieve compliance and avoid similar violations in the future.”  Because of these interim abatement actions, the Commission concluded that there was no basis for a Repeat citation.

In light of the Angelica decision, it appears that OSHA’s burden of proof has been measurably increased to establish a Repeat violation and it will be more difficult for OSHA to prove Repeat citations against employers. Following the acceptance of a citation, employers should work with a team well versed in the concepts espoused in the Angelica decision so that it can take the appropriate steps to establish that it acted in good faith and took effective and documented action to correct the violation. Employers should “actively [seek] out and eliminate[] similar hazards,” or “[take] affirmative steps to achieve compliance and avoid similar violations in the future.”  As there is no mechanical way to avoid a Repeat citation, and the corrective actions taken will depend on the factual circumstances surrounding the citation, employers should consult experienced counsel for guidance on what constitutes abatement of the citation and how to properly document such actions. Most importantly, beyond the concern of legal liability, if an employer takes the interim actions endorsed by the Angelica decision, it will measurably enhance the safety and health of its workplace.

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, 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. ClarkJames L. CurtisPatrick D. Joyce, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis:  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it is pushing back the effective date of parts of the rule limiting workers’ exposure to beryllium until May, while it negotiates with manufacturers and groups that have sued over the rule.

In January 2017, OSHA issued new health standards addressing exposure to beryllium in all industries (the “Beryllium Rule”).  The general industry standard, 29 CFR 1910.1024, had an effective date of March 10, 2017.

Then in June 2017, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to revoke the ancillary provisions of the construction and shipyard standards, such as housekeeping and personal protective equipment requirements, but retain the new Beryllium Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 0.2 µg/m3 over an 8-hour TWA and short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2.0 µg/m3 in a 15-minute period.

In response to feedback from stakeholders, the Agency is considering additional technical updates to the January 2017 general industry standard, which would clarify and simplify compliance with requirements.

In a recently-released interpretation memo, Delay of Enforcement of the Beryllium Standards under 29 CFR 1910.1024, 29 CFR 1915.1024, and 29 CFR 1926.1124, OSHA notes that it has been in settlement discussions with parties that filed legal actions challenging the general industry standard.  “In order to provide additional time to conclude those negotiations, we have decided to delay enforcement of the general industry standard by 60 days until May 11, 2018.”

“Furthermore, to ensure employers have adequate notice before OSHA begins enforcing them, as well as in the interest of uniform enforcement and clarity for employers, we have decided to also delay enforcement of the PEL and STEL in the construction and shipyard standards until May 11, 2018.  No other parts of the construction and shipyard beryllium standards will be enforced without additional notice.”

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

By Brent I. ClarkJames L. Curtis, Patrick D. Joyce, Adam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has just released several fact sheets applicable to industries regulated under the Crystalline Silica Standards in Construction Rule.

OSHA has recently released several silica dust fact sheets, including Controlling Silica Dust in Construction – Crushing Machines Fact Sheet (OSHA FS-3935 – 2017), Controlling Silica Dust in Construction – Heavy Equipment and Utility Vehicles Used During Demolition Activities Fact Sheet (OSHA FS-3936 – 2017), Controlling Silica Dust in Construction – Heavy Equipment and Utility Vehicles Used for Grading and Excavating Tasks Fact Sheet (OSHA FS-3937 – 2017), and Controlling Silica Dust in Construction – Large Drivable Milling Machines (Half Lane and Larger) Fact Sheet (OSHA FS-3934 – 2017).

The fact sheets reiterate OSHA’s position that when inhaled small particles of silica can irreversibly damage the lungs. The fact sheets describe dust controls that can be used to minimize the amount of airborne dust when using crushing machines and heavy equipment, as listed in Table 1 of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction.  Specific engineering controls listed are “wet methods,” and “dust suppressants,” and “exhaust ventilation,” and “operator isolation” such as “enclosed cab.”

We will continue to keep readers updated as this issue progresses.

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 Synopsis: In a win for labor, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals orders the remand of the Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction and General Industry (Silica Rule) for OSHA to explain its decision to omit medical removal protections.

In a decision this morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has remanded the Silica Rule to OSHA, holding that “OSHA was arbitrary and capricious in declining to require [medical removal protection] for some period when a medical professional recommends permanent removal, when a medical professional recommends temporary removal to alleviate COPD symptoms, and when a medical professional recommends temporary removal pending a specialist’s determination.”  The Court remanded the Rule to OSHA to reconsider or further explain those aspects of the Rule.  North America’s Building Trades Unions v. OSHA, No. 16-1105 (December 22, 2017).

This is a win for labor that had fought to have the measures included in the new Rule.  The Court rejected other challenges to the Rule raised by business and industry groups.

We have previously blogged about crystalline silica and this rulemaking, including OSHA Publishes “Small Entity Compliance” Guides for the Crystalline Silica Standards, OSHA Adopts 30-Day “Phase-In” of Enforcement of Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction, OSHA Proposes Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule, and New OSHA Hazard Safety Bulletin for the Hydraulic Fracturing Industries.

We will continue to keep readers updated as this issue progresses.

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. ClarkAdam R. Young, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has recently published “Small Entity Compliance” Guides for the new Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction and General Industry.

OSHA recently released small entity compliance guides for both construction and general industry.  See Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard in Construction (OSHA 3902 – 2017), and Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry and Maritime (OSHA 3911 – 2017).

OSHA does not define what it means by “small entity” in the Guides, other than referring to helping “small businesses.”  Generally, under the Small Business Act, Public Law 85-536, as amended, a small business concern is one that is “independently owned and operated and which is not dominant in its field of operation.”

We have previously blogged about crystalline silica, such as: OSHA Adopts 30-Day “Phase-In” of Enforcement of Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction, OSHA Proposes Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule, and New OSHA Hazard Safety Bulletin for the Hydraulic Fracturing Industries.

Crystalline silica ubiquitous in modern society. Crystalline silica is found in many naturally-occurring building materials and used in many industrial products and at construction sites. Materials such as sand, concrete, stone, and mortar contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also used to make products like glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone. Industrial sand containing crystalline silica is used in foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations.

While these Guides may assist employers in understanding compliance with the new rules, note that OSHA specifically states that:

This document provides guidance only, and does not alter or determine compliance responsibilities, which are laid out in OSHA standards and the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This guide does not replace the official Respirable Crystalline Silica standard [s].  The employer must refer to the standard to ensure that it is in compliance. Moreover, because interpretations and enforcement policy may change over time, for additional guidance on OSHA compliance requirements the reader should consult current administrative interpretations and [OSHRC] decisions….

Employers who work with silica must now comply with the Crystalline Silica Standard.  Due to the complexity of the regulations and requirements, we recommend you contact your occupational safety and health attorney as soon as possible to discuss a path to compliance.

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 Patrick D. Joyce and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: OSHA announced a thirty day phase-in for enforcement of the Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction under 29 CFR 1926.1153.  The new rule will be fully effective by Monday, October 23, 2017.

OSHA’s new crystalline silica rule is wide-reaching and, for that reason, the rulemaking has been contentious. We have blogged about crystalline silica many times: OSHA Proposes Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule, OSHA Extends the Comment Deadline for Proposed Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule, New OSHA Hazard Safety Bulletin for the Hydraulic Fracturing Industries, and Senators Ask OSHA to Consider the Fracking Industry Economy and to More Fully Extend the Comment Deadline for Proposed Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule.

Crystalline silica is a staple of modern society. Crystalline silica is a common mineral found in many naturally occurring materials and used in many industrial products and at construction sites. Materials such as sand, concrete, stone, and mortar contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also used to make products like glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone. Industrial sand containing crystalline silica is also used in certain foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations.

OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are potentially exposed to crystalline silica on the job, and that nearly 676,000 workplaces will be affected by the crystalline silica rule, including in construction and in general industry and maritime. The rule was expected to result in annual costs of $1,524 for the average workplace covered by the rule. The total cost of compliance with the rule was estimated at “just over $1 billion” (per year).

In an effort to remedy some of the difficulties that have arisen to come into compliance with the construction portion of the new rule, the Agency had previously decided to delay enforcement of the standard from June 23, 2017, until September 23, 2017.

Now that September 23 has passed, the Agency issued a standard interpretation letter for the Launch of Enforcement of the Respirable Crystalline Silica in Construction Standard, 29 CFR § 1926.1153.  The new rule will be fully effective on Monday, October 23, 2017.  Specifically the interpretation states that:

During the first 30 days of enforcement, OSHA will carefully evaluate good faith efforts taken by employers in their attempts to meet the new construction silica standard. OSHA will render compliance assistance and outreach to assure that covered employers are fully and properly complying with its requirements. Given the novelty of the Table 1 approach, OSHA will pay particular attention to assisting employers in fully and properly implementing the controls in the table. OSHA will assist employers who are making good faith efforts to meet the new requirements to assure understanding and compliance.

If, upon inspection, it appears an employer is not making any efforts to comply, OSHA’s inspection will not only include collection of exposure air monitoring performed in accordance with Agency procedures, but those employers may also be considered for citation. Any proposed citations related to inspections conducted in this time period will require National Office review.

For employers in these industries, it is important to note that this phase in period provides little additional time to come into compliance with the new rule. Due to the complexity of the rule, we recommend you contact your occupational safety and health attorney as soon as possible to discuss a path to compliance.

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 and Craig B. Simonsen

iStock_000062437178MediumSeyfarth Synopsis: OSHA has just announced a three month delay of enforcement of the Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction under 29 CFR 1926.1153.

Crystalline silica is a staple of our modern society.  OSHA notes that it’s a common mineral that is found in many naturally occurring materials, and used in many industrial products and at construction sites.  Materials such as sand, concrete, stone and mortar contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also used to make products like glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone.  Industrial sand is also used in certain foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations.  OSHA estimates that 2.3 million workers are exposed to crystalline silica on the job.

Because crystalline silica is so important to modern society, the OSHA silica standards rulemaking has been contentious.  We have blogged previously how OSHA Proposes Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule, OSHA Extends the Comment Deadline for Proposed Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule, New OSHA Hazard Safety Bulletin for the Hydraulic Fracturing Industries, and Senators Ask OSHA to Consider the Fracking Industry Economy and to More Fully Extend the Comment Deadline for Proposed Silica Worker Exposure Hazards Rule.

OSHA estimates that nearly 676,000 workplaces will be affected, including in construction and in general industry and maritime.  In addition, the rule is expected to result in annual costs of about $1,524 for the average workplace covered by the rule.  The total cost is estimated by OSHA at “just over $1 billion” (per year).

In an effort to remedy some of the issues and problems in compliance with the new rule, to provide OSHA with the opportunity to conduct additional outreach to the regulated community, and to provide additional time to train compliance officers, the Agency has decided to delay enforcement of the standard from June 23, 2017, until September 23, 2017.

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

Warehouseman after accident at heightSeyfarth Synopsis: OSHA just updated its annual list of the top ten cited standards. The list provides a starting point for employers reviewing their own safety programs.

OSHA just announced the Agency’s annual listing of the “Top Ten Most Frequently Cited Standards.” OSHA’s release noted that, “one remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.” Statistically, he noted that more than “4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured.”

The ten most frequently cited standards are as follows:

OSHA’s 2015 Top Ten image from OSHA.gov.

As in years past, the Top Ten listing identifies fall protection, hazard communication, scaffolding, respiratory protection and lockout/tagout (LOTO) as major sources of citations. This annual listing is a testimony to both the difficulty of consistent compliance with these standards, and OSHA’s ongoing emphasis on these hazards.

Employers should use this listing as a reminder to emphasize these areas during new employee orientation and existing employee refresher training. Employers should also realize that OSHA will absolutely be looking for violations in these areas when they visit your worksite.

Employers with questions or concerns about any of these issues or topics are encouraged to reach out to the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the OSHA Compliance, Enforcement & Litigation Team.

 

By Adam R. Young and Meagan Newman

iStock_000026199854_MediumOn June 1, 2015, federal OSHA released an Interpretation Letter requiring that employers train employees on the laundering requirements of fire retarding (FR) and arc-rated clothing.

The question, submitted to OSHA by the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, sought OSHA’s enforcement position on the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1926.95. The Union inquired as to whether the employer or employees were responsible for the laundering of fire retarding (FR) and arc-rated clothing provided to employees.

In response, the Agency explained that employers must ensure that protective clothing is maintained in a reliable condition. Where employees are expected to launder their own clothing at home, employers must train employees in “proper laundering procedures and techniques.” Employers then must inspect clothing on a regular basis to ensure that it is not in need of repair or replacement. According to OSHA, if an employer is unable to train employees on proper laundering procedures or is unable to inspect clothing regularly, the employer must launder the clothing itself.

While an Interpretation Letter is only advisory, the position taken in this letter demonstrates federal OSHA’s increasingly aggressive enforcement with regard to PPE and FR clothing. OSHA presents employers with a Hobson’s Choice: pay to collect and launder employee clothing, or be responsible for an adequate laundry training and clothing inspection program. Accordingly, employers should consider reviewing their policies for laundering PPE and seek compliance with the regulation.