If you are an employer and are considering using suspension as a disciplinary measure, be aware that the Supreme Court of Canada has indicated that employers do not have unfettered authority to withhold work from their employees and that legitimate business reasons must be shown in the context of any administrative suspension. Absent such reasons, an administrative suspension—even with pay—may be found to be a constructive dismissal.Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
When it comes to hospitals we all expect the highest standard of cleanliness and yet, we want every part of our lives to be more sustainable. Of course, when hospitals are faced with a choice that puts hygiene up against sustainability, hygiene always wins. But I wonder if it’s possible to find ways for both to win?Read More
The Clean Water Act’s (CWA’s) national water quality purview includes National Pollutant Discharge Elimination system (NPDES) provisions for “stormwater” that may contain pollutants such as oil, industrial contaminants, and sediment. This means run-off of rain or snow melt containing pollutants from manufacturing, processing, or raw material storage areas at an industrial site, that passes through a “conveyance” (such as a storm drain) into waters of the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers or delegates permit programs covering discharges from the following:Read More
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) defines national requirements for the transportation of hazardous materials, under what’s commonly called the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA). DOT agencies promulgate most regulatory requirements with nationwide applicability, and delegate most administrative and oversight responsibilities to state transportation and highway patrol agencies. Delegated functions include state-level registration of motor carriers that transport hazardous materials by roadways, and licensing for their drivers.Read More
In recent years, activist investors have sought to expand climate-related reporting by publicly traded companies – directly by pressuring the companies, and indirectly by petitioning the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulators to require additional reporting in periodic reports on the businesses’ status and prospects, and in annual meeting reports and proxy requests. SEC has been criticized for doing very little in response to these requests, but took potentially important actions on March 23.Read More
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates thousands of chemicals, through regulatory standards directing employers to reduce worker exposures. At the broadest level, employers must evaluate basic information about every potentially hazardous chemical, and provide information to employees in compliance with OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (I’ve blogged about changing HCS requirements here, and here). OSHA’s Air Contaminants Standard provides ambient workplace air limits for hundreds of listed contaminants. OSHA also provides more tailored requirements for classes of chemicals (such as flammables), and for types of activities that pose chemical hazards (such as welding). For a small number of especially hazardous chemicals, OSHA provides a detailed standard applicable to a single chemical—examples include asbestos, benzene, and lead. On March 25, 2016, OSHA established another single-chemical standard, for respirable crystalline silica (29 CFR section 1910.1053). Most affected employers must comply by June 23, 2018; a few provisions are phased in later, and construction employers must meet most requirements by June 23, 2017.Read More
You might ask how it is possible that there is no direct mention of the shipping industry in the Paris Agreement at COP21. Many people wonder just how much air pollution is created by the shipping industry and who is working to improve this mysterious source of greenhouse gas emissions?Read More
Federal hazardous materials transportation laws assign the Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) general authority to designate hazardous materials and prescribe regulations for the “safe transportation of hazardous materials in intrastate, interstate, and foreign commerce.” PHMSA also prescribes criteria for handling hazardous materials, including training of personnel, inspections, and standards for operating and monitoring equipment.
These laws also authorize PHMSA and other DOT units to issue "special permits" that allow variances from federal requirements for up to two years. These special permits may be renewed for up to two years each time (and up to four years for variances from transport routing requirements). In 2012 “MAP-21” (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) directed PHMSA to review special permits that had been in place for at least 10 years, and to adopt regulatory revisions by October 1, 2015. PHMSA was to apply the following factors to determine the suitability for adopting a special permit into its hazardous materials regulations (HMR):
Even if your organization is not required to do so, you should consider the benefits or being prepared to conduct emergency responses and evacuations. Well-developed emergency plans and proper employee training (so employees understand their roles and responsibilities) likely will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan, on the other hand, likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, exacerbating confusion, injury, and property damage.
Which Employers Require An EAP?
The following OSHA Standards require you to prepare an EAP as part of your compliance with their requirements:Read More
Efforts to prevent and respond to chemical disasters are undergoing their first thorough review since many were created decades ago after December 1984’s catastrophe in Bhopal, India. President Obama triggered these reviews in August 2013, when he issued an Executive Order directing federal regulatory agencies to review specified regulatory programs that are designed to prevent such disasters: Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Chemical Process Safety Management Standard (PSM); Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Accidental Release Prevention (ARP) program and Emergency Planning and Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) program; and Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program (I blogged about the EO here, OSHA’s consideration of PSM changes here, EPA’s call for comments on possible ARP revisions here, one of the agencies’ joint reports here, and about subsequent revisions to CFATS here and here). On February 25, 2016 EPA proposed ARP revisions, which I describe below.Read More