Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Chemical Safety Board Proposes Accident Reporting Regulations

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jan 14, 2020

The federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board – which usually refers to itself as the Chemical Safety Board or CSB – began operations in 1998. CSB conducts independent investigations of major chemical accidents, issues accident-specific findings, and offers specific or general recommendations for improved chemical handling and regulation (I wrote about one set of proposals here). Since its authorization in the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments, CSB has also had authority to establish chemical accident reporting regulations.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, Hazcom, RCRA, CAA, csb

EPA Completes Re-Revisions to Accidental Release Prevention Rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Dec 23, 2019

On November 20, 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completed its latest review and revisions to the Accidental Release Prevention (ARP) program for toxic catastrophe prevention under the Clean Air Act (CAA). These changes complete the Trump Administration’s review and repeal of most changes enacted during the Obama Administration, returning ARP requirements to roughly the point they were at before 2016. The remainder of this note summarizes these changes.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Hazcom, CAA

EPA Adds Aerosol Cans to Universal Wastes

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Dec 19, 2019

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) assigns the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define and then regulate “hazardous wastes.” RCRA provides EPA considerable discretion, and one way the agency applies that discretion is by separating hazardous wastes into categories that are subject to distinct waste management requirements. One basis for these categorizations is relative risk – since 1995, EPA has defined a limited set of lower-risk wastes as “universal wastes” subject to special rules intended to encourage recycling (40 CFR part 273).

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, Hazcom, RCRA

Protecting Workers Working Alone

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 17, 2019

If it’s true that “there’s safety in numbers,” it’s just as true that employees working in isolation risk more severe consequences from most incidents.  Worker protection laws have long recognized this truism in industrial settings where medical emergencies, accidents, or even “bad air” can be fatal to a lone worker who could readily be rescued by co-workers were any present. In recent years, worker protection agencies in most Canadian provinces have adopted requirements to protect “workers working alone or in isolation.” The movement has spread to the United States, including a special focus on hotel workers. Because of these trends, now is a good time to review requirements and compliance programs.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Health & Safety, OSHA, Workplace violence

EPA Seeking to Enhance Water Quality Trading

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Dec 12, 2019

For nearly 30 years, environmental regulation has included examples of market-like mechanisms, where overall pollution limits (“budgets”) are set and individual sources assigned trade-able “emission credits” that can be traded among sources as they negotiate the most efficient pathways to overall reduction necessary to meet the budget. Although proliferating “cap and trade” systems for greenhouse gases are probably the most widely known, other examples abound.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water

EPA Proposes to Revise Rule Governing Lead in Drinking Water

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 10, 2019

Since 1991, Safe Drinking Water Act’s (SDWA) Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) has required public water systems (PWSs) to take steps to protect their customers from hazardous levels of lead in drinking water. Even before the highly-publicized crisis in Flint, Michigan, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was working to update and expand LCR’s protective measures. These efforts include a 2016 White Paper announcing the “urgent need” for revisions, describing key issues and possible revisions, and projecting a proposal to issue extensive LCR revisions during 2017. However, after President Trump assumed office, EPA’s priorities shifted and the agency delayed action (I summarized the existing LCR and wrote about EPA’s regulatory delay here). In November 2019, EPA proposed LCR changes, which I summarize below.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean water

Recent Confirmation That Canadian Directors Can Consider Non-Shareholder Interests

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 03, 2019

The most basic principle of corporate directorships is that the directors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their corporation. It has followed closely that directors should serve the best interests of the shareholders – in most circumstances this means all the shareholders, not the majority or some faction to which a director might owe allegiance. Although it’s not so clear how expansively directors should interpret those corporate interests, the trend is toward consideration of more groups of “stakeholders.” The past year has seen important reinforcements for that trend.

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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, Canadian, corporate social responsibility, directors, directors & officers

Protecting Workers During Holiday Sales Events

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 26, 2019

As we approach the winter holidays, retailers everywhere are planning their biggest cycles of annual sales. One doesn’t have to be a grinch to notice that these events can introduce additional hazards for retail employees – and for others who may be shopping. It’s therefore a good time to review guidance for managing these hazards, which was promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2012. This guidance followed a national review after a highly-publicized incident during which a worker at a Long Island Walmart was trampled to death by a crowd mobbing the store’s Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving) sales event in 2008. OSHA determined that Walmart should have anticipated crowd-related hazards, and fined the company for a violation of the Employer’s General Duty Clause (I wrote about this here)

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, EHS, Workplace violence

OSHA Revises Its Inspection Priority Weighting System

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 19, 2019

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not routinely inspect all employers, but instead allocates its inspector resources based on the agency’s evolving compliance and enforcement priorities. These priorities include a complex set of national/state/local priorities, such as “national emphasis programs (NEPs)” for process chemical safety or machine guarding, industry focus projects on primary metals industries, and site-specific responses to reported injuries or worker complaints. To meld and rationalize these overlapping priorities, OSHA headquarters periodically establishes weighting programs under which local offices tabulate inspection statistics to demonstrate inspection productivity by achieving higher overall scores. Effective October 1, 2019, OSHA has introduced a revised inspection weighting system, intended to motivate local OSHA offices to revise their inspection priorities.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, PSMS

President Trump Restricts Agencies’ Use of Guidelines

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 12, 2019

Since assuming office, President Trump and his administration have generally sought to reduce and repeal formal federal regulations, and to tighten appointed agency heads’ direct control over their agencies’ regulatory actions. These efforts have included executive orders (EO) from the President providing government-wide mandates and priorities (For example, I wrote about EO 13777, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”, here). They have also included formal regulatory proceedings, mostly directed toward reducing or revoking requirements adopted during President Obama’s tenure (for example, I wrote about the latest changes to national vehicle emission standards here). Individual agencies have followed and reinforced these efforts (For example, I wrote about the Environmental Protection Agency “Back to Basics” initiative here).

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Tags: Business & Legal, Audit Standards, Environmental, EHS