Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Can a Québec employer force employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Posted by BLG’s Labour and Employment Group on Wed, Dec 16, 2020

Since surfacing in Québec, COVID-19 has had its share of drawbacks for workers and employers, and continues to impose numerous human resource management and administration challenges. Employer obligations and responsibilities regarding occupational health and safety have increased significantly. These include stricter hygiene and maintenance measures in the workplace, social distancing, and wearing masks, among others.

The upsurge in COVID-19 cases seen recently is an unfortunate reminder of its high rate of contagion and its virulence among at risk populations. The global scientific community has been working hard to develop effective vaccines, and for many, such vaccines are the long-awaited solution. In this context, several legal issues arise. For example, could an employer require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employee Rights, Covid-19, Employment Law, Labour & Employment, Vaccine, Immunization, Quebec

EPA adopts rules for hazardous air pollutant sources to reclassify from “major” to “area” using administrative controls

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Dec 08, 2020

The Clean Air Act (CAA) directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to define “hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)” that may pose acute health hazards, and to impose regulations to reduce those hazards. EPA requires permits for “major sources” of HAPs based on “Maximum Achievable Control Technologies (MACT),” and lesser controls for non-major “area sources.” During President Trump’s term, EPA has pursued several initiatives to make it easier for sources to reclassify from “major” to “area” in order to reduce their regulatory responsibilities.

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Tags: EPA, CAA, NESHAPs, HAPs, PTE

OSHA requirements for workplaces exit routes

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 30, 2020

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) generally requires employers to ensure that employees (and other occupants of your workplace) have adequate and safe routes to leave work areas during fires and similar emergencies. OSHA presents these requirements in its Exit Routes Standard (29 CFR 1910.36 – 1910.37), with tie-ins to its emergency action plan and fire prevention plan standards (29 CFR 1910.38 and 1910.39). The following discussion summarizes the Exit Routes Standard.

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Tags: OSHA, ADA, Exit Routes Standard

California Adopts Universal Wastes Rules For Photovoltaics

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 23, 2020

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) established waste management rules for solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, to become effective on January 1, 2021. These rules are adopted under the state Hazardous Waste Control Law (HWCL), applying “universal waste” authority permissible under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) RCRA regulations. EPA defines five universal waste categories, and also allows states to define additional categories (I wrote about this HERE). The remainder of today’s blog summarizes these universal waste PV requirements (which include dozens of revisions to proposed state rules I discussed HERE).

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Tags: EPA, RCRA, Environment, HWCL, Photovoltaics, DTSC, PV Wastes

Protecting against workplace violence during COVID

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 17, 2020

During the COIVD-19 pandemic, there have been many reports of angry arguments between people who don’t want to wear masks or practice social distance and retail staff members trying to enforce local requirements. Some of these confrontations escalate to violence. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide formal guidelines to retail businesses, offering ways for protecting workers by “Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Businesses.” The remainder of this note describes CDC’s latest guidance. 

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Workplace violence, Coronavirus, CDC, Covid-19, CCOHS

Chemical Safety Board issues review of combustible dust hazards and management

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 10, 2020

The federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board – which usually refers to itself as the Chemical Safety Board or CSB -- has issued guidance on the hazards of explosive and combustible dust. The report is intended to identify the key barriers to improvement in the control and mitigation of combustible dust hazards. The report was developed by a contractor to CSB, after a fatal 2017 dust explosion at the Didion Milling facility in Cambria, Wisconsin. In October 2018, CSB issued a “Call to Action” to gather comments on the management, control and understanding of combustible dust (which I wrote about HERE). The objective of this project was to make sense of comments submitted in response to the Call to Action. CSB ultimately received 57 responses, which its contractor reviewed and supplemented with additional research. 

 

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, CSB, chemical safety, NFPA

EPA revises regulatory methodology for determining whether source modifications trigger “new” source review

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Nov 02, 2020

When are changes to an existing system so extensive that they produce a “new” system? This question is conceptually important in any evolving organization, and can have important regulatory consequences if requirements for “existing” systems are substantially different than those for “new” systems. Emissions regulations under the Clean Air Act (CAA) contain many such situations, and on October 22 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted changes to the “project emissions accounting” it uses to decide whether modifications to an existing major source are so extensive as to trigger preconstruction New Source Review (NSR) requirements. This revision codifies into regulations a policy changed announced in 2018.

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Tags: EPA, CAA, Environment, PSD, NSR

Study compares environmental enforcement during Trump administration with predecessors

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Oct 28, 2020

I’ve written numerous times in this space about specific efforts by the Trump administration to reduce environmental regulation and enforcement. A new study from the University of Michigan Law School quantifies reductions in the administration’s criminal enforcement levels. The report is part of the school’s “Environmental Crimes Project,” and includes the first two years of the Trump Administration as the latest in a 14-year series of federal environmental enforcement data. Readers should note that federal criminal environmental enforcement is brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA and delegated state agencies bring their own civil cases, and most state criminal enforcement is brought by state prosecutors on behalf of state regulatory agencies (I summarized agency enforcement in the first year of the Trump administration HERE).

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Tags: OSHA, EPA, RCRA, CAA, DOJ, CWA, Environment, ESA, SWMA

Environmental policy: what are the Democrats promising

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 20, 2020

As the 2020 Presidential election approaches its close, both major parties’ major environmental proposals have been formalized. As the incumbent party, the Republican National Committee decided not to adopt a formal election platform, and instead adopted a resolution promising continuity, the most substantive provision of which is “That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” (I summarized candidate Trump’s 2016 proposals HERE, and have written dozens of blogs summarizing specific actions since that election).
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Tags: climate change, Environment, Clean Air Act, Republican Party, 2020 US Presidential election, Clean Energy, Democratic Party

British Columbia Supreme Court Finds Human Rights and Workers Comp Claims are not Mutually Exclusive

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Oct 13, 2020

A variety of laws and regulations each prohibit sexual harassment in workplaces. These include:

· Human rights laws prohibit employers from committing or condoning discrimination, including sex discrimination which includes sexual harassment.

· General labour statutes find that harassment can alter terms of employment and even trigger constructive dismissal.

· Occupational health and safety laws protect workers from workplace hazards, which increasingly including bullying and harassment.

· Workers compensation laws provide an insurance system to compensate workers for occupational injuries and illness.

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Tags: Employee Rights, Discrimination, BC Human Rights Tribunal, Sexual Harassment, BC Human Rights Code