Last weekend’s disastrous earthquakes in Nepal are a reminder that natural disasters can strike anywhere. Employers can and should plan for a broad range of events, and can apply guidance from occupational safety and health agencies standards when doing so. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers with specified activities to prepare and implement emergency action plans (EAPs), provides guidance for EAPs, and recommends that all employers prepare these plans. Employers can use this structure to prepare for earthquakes.
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
The founder and principal of Northland Properties Corp. (“Northland”), Bob Gaglardi and his son, Tom Gaglardi, the president of Northland were found guilty, along with Northland, of two counts of “unlawfully carrying on a work or undertaking that resulted in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat along the foreshore of Kamloops Lake” contrary to the federal Fisheries Act (R. v. Northland Properties Corp., 2014 BCPC 251 (BC Prov. Ct.). The charges related to land clearing and placing of fill on seven of Northland’s properties. The Crown alleged the work was performed unlawfully by Northland’s servants and under the direction of the Gaglardis. Both Northland and Tom Gaglardi denied they intended to cause the resulting damage to fish habitat, pleading that “the project supervisor for the work, Jim Parks, exceeded the directions he had been given on the project regarding landscaping.” They did admit that they had failed to be duly diligent in supervising the project, resulting in the damage to the fish habitat. Bob Gaglardi pleaded he was only briefly and peripherally involved in the project and thus, was not guilty. The Court held that there was sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit him on the charges.
As most readers know, employers have very broad responsibilities to provide their employees with a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards.” To meet this Employer’s General Duty, employers must do more than just identify and comply with applicable safety standards issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its equivalent (I discussed this general provision here). Employers also must take other – unspecified – steps to identify and “recognize” unregulated hazards. One important version of these steps is to watch for non-binding recommendations from OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and other credible organizations in industry, government and academia,
The revision of the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems Standard is now in its final stages. The Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) will be released soon for the membership to vote for approval or reconsideration—and voting will continue for two months, at which time, the FDIS will be approved as is, or sent back to the ISO Environmental Management Technical Committee 207 (ISO/TC207). Due to the lengthy and deliberate process built into reviewing and updating ISO standards, it is rare for an FDIS not to be approved.
My most recent blog provided a short summary of chemical evaluation and reporting requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. These requirements apply when a manufacturer or importer is preparing to introduce a “new chemical substance” into commerce in the U.S., to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with information to evaluate whether chemical hazards require regulatory restrictions (up to and including outright bans) to provide adequate protections to human health and the environment. TSCA does not include any blanket requirement for ongoing studies or updated evaluations of an “existing chemical substance” after it has entered commerce—including those already in commerce when TSCA took effect, so some chemicals have never undergone a regulatory review of their hazards.
The Tax Court of Canada reviewed the requirements for a directors’ resignation to be effective in the context of potential personal liability for the corporation’s failure to remit source deductions under the Income Tax Act in determining that a resignation document prepared by corporate counsel was sufficient, even though the directors never saw the document (Gariepy v. The Queen, 2014 TCC 254). In this case, Donna Gariepy and Sally Chriss agreed to act as directors of 1056922 Ontario Limited (“105”) at the urging of their husbands, Derek Gariepy and George Chriss, the actual managers of 105. The directors’ husbands had been directors of CG Industries (CGI) that had become insolvent and owed significant unremitted source deduction amounts to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Spring may be just around the corner, but winter isn’t over yet. Those of us who work in comfortable indoor spaces are fortunate that we only experience the cold weather on our way to and from work. However, for the many who work outdoors, the weather presents a daily challenge, especially during winter.
Although day-to-day environmental regulations tend to focus on water quality, water quantity is also an issue … and can be a critical one. Here in California, we’re experiencing the third year of a drought of historic proportions; our Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 18% of average as winter ends. As the drought continues, state and local agencies are taking stronger and stronger measures to limit water use. The State Water Resources Control Board SWRCB) has just proposed to expand emergency regulations adopted in July 2014.
Trespassing along railroad and transit rights-of-way (ROW) is a leading cause of rail-related deaths in America. Almost every two hours someone in the U.S. is hit by a train. Highway-rail crossing and trespasser deaths account for 90 percent of all rail-related deaths; more than 550 trespass fatalities and nearly as many injuries occur each year.
Although it’s been in the 70’s here in California, employers in most parts of the continent should be worrying about protecting workers against the extremely cold weather. Occupational safety and health regulators include “environmental” hazards as those that may require employers to provide their employees with personal protective equipment (PPE), and employers also bear a “general duty” to protect workers against recognized hazards. These requirements cover potential harm from extreme temperatures including cold. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) PPE standards address cold, and U.S. and Canadian guidelines apply general worker protection principles to "cold stress" hazards.