Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Appeals Court Affirms OSHA’s Approach to Workplace Air Testing and Respiratory Protection

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 11, 2020

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to evaluate whether air quality in their workplaces requires respiratory protection for workers, and to establish comprehensive evaluation and respiratory protection programs where necessary. (I wrote about recent revisions here). Late last year, a federal appeals court upheld OSHA’s approaches to workplace testing requirements under the Respiratory Protection Standard (Standard) (Secretary of Labor v. Seward Ship's Drydock, Inc.).

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

Ontario Courts Reaffirm the Weave of the Corporate Veil

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Feb 07, 2020

One of the enduring benefits of the corporate form is the treatment of corporations as separate “people,” distinct from their owners when questions of legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities arise. This separation extends not just to individual investors and shareholders, but in most circumstances to the corporate directors and officers who decide what their corporation does. Common law courts and federal and provincial corporation statutes define the exceptions – usually based on what are called “piercing the corporate veil” between the company and its controlling minds, or by deciding that those controllers run the corporation as an “alter ego” rather than as a distinct legal person. In recent months, two cases in Ontario have given courts the opportunities to review and reaffirm these traditional approaches.

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Tags: Corporate Governance, Business & Legal, International, Canadian, directors, directors & officers

Northeastern States Propose Regional Cap-and-Trade Program to Reduce Greenhouse Gases From Transportation

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 04, 2020

After nearly a decade of talking and planning, most of the northeast and middle Atlantic states (plus the District of Columbia) in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) have proposed a cap-and-trade program intended to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. On October 1, TCI issued a “Framework for a Draft Regional Policy Proposal,” and on December 17 a formal “Draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)” that jurisdictions can sign to formalize their participation. If things go well, the formal program should begin in 2020.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, Greenhouse Gas, ghg, cap-and-trade

New EPA Policy Redefines “Ambient” Air on Stationary Source Sites

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jan 28, 2020

Although a major focus of the Clean Air Act (CAA) is the definition, attainment and maintenance of national ambient air quality standards (NAAQSs), the statute doesn’t define the term “ambient air.” This gap leaves the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop regulatory and policy definitions that delimit the reach of CAA authority. Since 1971, EPA’s definition defines “ambient air” as “that portion of the atmosphere, external to buildings, to which the general public has access.” EPA also provides additional details in a series of policy documents, which have just been updated with a  memorandum from EPA Administrator Wheeler to expand the exclusions for onsite air.

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

The Court of Appeal Has Spoken: Safety Must Come First at the Port of Montréal’s Terminals

Posted by Justine B. Laurier on Tue, Jan 21, 2020

On September 12, 2019, the Québec Court of Appeal rendered its ruling in the case of Singh c. Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnerships1, upholding the decision rendered in first instance by the Honourable Justice André Prévost of the Superior Court. This case opposed the right to freedom of religion and the requirements of health and safety in locations like marine terminals, where safety is a major issue.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Canadian, directors, directors & officers

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

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

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