Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

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

OSHA Revises Respiratory Protection Requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Nov 05, 2019

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. In September, OSHA issued minor revisions to its respiratory protection requirements provisions for general industry (29 CFR 1910.134), adding two new quantitative fit testing protocols. Because of these changes,  now is a good time for employers to review requirements and compliance programs.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, Environmental risks, EHS

Reversed on Appeal: Workplace Harassment Isn’t a Tort In Ontario After All

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Sep 03, 2019

Although an ever-expanding range of laws prohibit workplace harassment, the Court of Appeal for Ontario has now ruled that harassment is not a free-standing common law tort in that province. This ruling reverses a trial court ruling by the by the provincial Superior Court of Justice that shocked employment law in 2017. This ruling returns workplace harassment to the realm of statutory and regulatory requirements and prohibitions, which certainly isn’t unambiguous, but at least offers more structured frames of reference. The case is Merrifield v. Canada (Attorney General), and it litigates a complaint between a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and his employers.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, Workplace violence, Canadian

Canada—Federal Employers: Prepare for a Wave of Change in Workplace Harassment Obligations

Posted by Maryse Tremblay on Tue, Jul 30, 2019

In the last few years, and particularly with the advent of the #MeToo movement, some employers may have seen a rise in the number of harassment complaints in the workplace, including sexual harassment complaints. Employers under federal jurisdiction have been affected as well.

However, the current legal framework surrounding harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces is fragmented. The results of many public consultations have shown that this framework is not currently designed to adequately address occurrences of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

In that context, in the past 18 months, significant changes have been proposed to the current legislation to address workplace harassment situations.

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

OSHA Unlocks Review of Its Lockout/Tagout Standard

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jun 18, 2019

Among its many workplace health and safety standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to protect employees during equipment servicing and maintenance, to prevent “unexpected” equipment energization, start up, or release of stored energy. OSHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy Standard—more often called the Lockout/Tagout or “LOTO” Standard after its primary compliance requirements—requires employers to establish and implement safety procedures to control such hazardous energy. The LOTO Standard has changed very little since OSHA adopted it in 1989, but the agency has just published a formal request for information – public comments – about two changes in workplace equipment over the past 30 years that might affect energy hazards and justify revisions to the LOTO Standard. The rest of this note summarizes existing requirements and discussed OSHA’s review of control circuits and workplace robotics.

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

Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission Confirms Employer’s General Duty Clause Applies to Workplace Violence

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, May 14, 2019

On March 4, 2019, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (Commission) issued its first affirmation of a citation and penalty issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to punish a health care provider under the Employer’s General Duty Clause for failing to take adequate steps to prevent workplace violence. OSHA has issued citations under this Clause since 2012, but this is the first time that the Commission has confirmed one of these citations on appeal.

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

Keeping Safe in Winter Weather

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 05, 2019

Even if the latest polar vortex has ended by the time you read this, employers in most parts of the continent should be worrying about protecting workers against winter 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, as well as slippery surfaces and other hazards from frozen and melting snow or other precipitation.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, Health & Safety, OSHA, Employee Rights, climate change

Directors' Liability for Workplace Sexual Harassment in Canada Can Depend on Which Laws are Applied

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jan 22, 2019

Sexual harassment in Canadian workplaces can trigger a variety of laws and regulations:

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, Workplace violence, Canadian, directors, directors & officers

NLRB Proposes New Rule Defining “Joint Employer”

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Jan 10, 2019

When someone receives occupational direction and/or compensation from more than one entity, who’s the boss? Sometimes it’s obviously one or the other, sometimes it’s not clear which one is, and sometimes the answer may be “both.” The answer has important implications, not just for who writes a paycheck but for who is subject to legal requirements and prohibitions under applicable laws.

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Tags: Business & Legal, Employer Best Practices, Employee Rights, NLRB, directors & officers