On April 30, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rules to phase down production and consumption of specified hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs), consistent with directives included in the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the United Nations-sponsored Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. These rules were authorized by the massive coronavirus relief bill (American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act)) enacted in December 2020, which included dozens of unrelated provisions within its 5,593 pages.
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
Effective March 1, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a revised “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Multi-Sector General Permit for Discharges from industrial Activities” (MSGP).” This new 2021 MSGP replaces EPA’s 2015 MSGP (which expired in 2020 but was continued by administrative fiat). Compliance begins May 30, 2021 for facilities that have been subject to the 2015 MSGP. Even though EPA's direct permit authority applies only in limited parts of the country, the new MSGP provides a reminder to organizations nationwide that stormwater management efforts need to be thorough and up-to-date.
Although the main focus of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) requirements, that employers protect workers against recognized ongoing hazards, associated with routine activities, employers’ responsibilities also extend to likely emergencies. Several OSHA standards address emergency conditions. These include emergency exit routes (which I wrote about HERE), emergency action plans (which I wrote about HERE), and fire prevention plans (FPPs). The remainder of this note discusses FPPs. Some OSHA standards require employers to create FPPs as part of their compliance programs. Even if your organization is not required by OSHA to do so, local fire codes or state requirements may apply. In every situation, you should consider the benefits of fire prevention and response activities.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) administers a Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Standards (CFATS) program, requiring chemical facilities to undertake security measures to protect against “potential consequences of or vulnerabilities to a terrorist attack or incident.” The statutory basis for the program was first enacted in 2007, revised in 2014, and continued as of 2020 to expire on July 27, 2023. CFATS is administered by DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). CFATS regulations establish risk-based performance standards for facilities that handle more than a screening threshold quantity (STQ) of any of 322 DHS-listed Chemicals of Interest. Regulatory requirements start with facility filing an online “Top-Screen” survey form with CISA. On February 10, 2021, CISA reported receiving its 100,000th Top-Screen report (from over 40,000 unique facilities); this milestone provides a reminder that CFATS requirements apply to large swathes of industry.
As vaccinations begin to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, more employers are moving to reoccupy and reopen workplace areas, many of which have been closed for months. During those times, residual moisture from reduced space conditioning or under-maintained facilities may have increased the possibility of mold infestations, which might endanger people returning to your workplace. This risk makes it a good time to review basic approaches to mold remediation. The remainder of this note reviews guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
One of the most talked about topics when it comes to the scheduled roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine this year is whether an employer is entitled to require its employees to receive the vaccine in order to remain at or return to the workplace.
It’s a multifaceted issue, and it deserves fulsome consideration when discussing the important role employers could play in the national vaccination campaign, which is a key component of the fight against the spread of COVID-19 within an employer’s workplace and more broadly. However, that is not the only interest at play. An employer’s obligation to provide a safe workplace must be balanced with employees’ potentially competing interests, such as the fundamental freedom to make inherently personal choices about one’s own body. This can include competing rights relate to health or religious beliefs and trigger protection under human rights legislation.
Since the 1980s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has required most employers to protect their workers from workplace chemical hazards, and to train workers to protect themselves. Most employers are subject to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS; 29 CFR 1910.1200), or to variants imposed by states delegated OSHA’s authority. OSHA revises its HCS from time to time; by far the biggest revisions were adopted in March 2012, when OSHA recast HCS to align it with the United Nations-sponsored Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). OSHA’s 2012 revisions conformed the US to GHS Revision 3, which was issued internationally in 2002. The most obvious change was the adoption of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to replace longstanding Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), but employers faced a series of deadlines during 2013-2016.Read More
Many of President Biden’s immediate priorities relate to the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include worker protection measures, which generally fall within the purview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Executive Order (EO) 13999 of January 21, 2021 (Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety) directs OSHA to rapidly enhance COVID-19 protection activities. The EO directed OSHA to update worker protection guidance to employers within two weeks, which OSHA met by publishing “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” which I discussed HERE.Read More
Regulators often rely on whistleblowers to reveal ongoing violations, and prosecutors rely on whistleblowers and informants from time to time to “make their cases.” Recognizing this value, many federal and state laws provide explicit protections for employees who report actual or potential violations to their employers or to the agencies that administer and enforce those laws.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has administered such a provision for workers disclosing violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for more than 40 years. In the intervening decades, a wide variety of federal statutes have expanded OSHA’s whistleblower protection activities, assigning OSHA to enforce whistleblower protection provisions of other laws; as of 2021 this authority covers 24 distinct federal laws. The best known and most litigated of these non-worker laws probably is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOx) – Section 806 of that law protects whistleblowers who report activities that may violate anti-fraud provisions of the federal Securities Acts. The rest of this posting identifies these laws, and summarizes how OSHA administers them.Read More
After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines are finally in distribution and beginning to affect health and safety measures underway by agencies, employers and the public. On March 8, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People.” These new guidelines are directed to individuals, but employers should consider their implications when deciding what to tell their individual employees and customers how to approach the business. The short version: organizations shouldn’t ease up on protective measures undertaken in compliance with guidance from CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other agencies. I provide more detailed discussion in the remainder of this note.