There are no national ergonomics requirements for employers, but California has just expanded its longstanding requirements, to add specific protections for hotel housekeepers. These new requirements complete review and rulemaking triggered in 2012 by a petition by a labor advocacy group, and are consistent with other requirements already administered by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CalOSHA). The state’s efforts are also consistent with general guidance provided US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). (OSHA has enforced its General Duty Clause against employers found to have ignored known hazards to their employees, since President Bush signed legislation in 2001 repealing OSHA’s own national ergonomics standard.).Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) are appearing in more and more public spaces and workplaces. These electronic devices are designed to deliver an electric shock to a victim of sudden cardiac arrest, and could save thousands of lives every year:Read More
Although Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) requirements target hundreds of micro-organisms (primarily viruses and bacteria), important hazards remain unregulated. Many await definitive scientific conclusions, but others need testing and control methodologies that would allow requirements to be designed and administered, sufficient regulator and regulated entity resources, and/or high enough political priorities. Until recently, one of these unregulated pathogens has been the legionella bacterium, first identified in 1976 as the cause of “Legionnaire’s disease,” which appears as a form of pneumonia.Read More
In October 2016, EPA produced a White Paper announcing the “urgent need” for revisions, describing key issues and possible revisions, and projecting to propose extensive LCR revisions during 2017. However, since President Trump assumed office, EPA’s priorities are shifting and its resources are being reduced (for example, I wrote about EPA’s Back-to-Basics Agenda here). Most recently, EPA’s formal agency-wide regulatory agenda now postpones the issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) until January 2018 and a final rule until June 2019. While we await action, it’s worth considering how PWSs can reduce lead exposures, particularly since building owners and employers might consider improvements to plumbing and fixtures that could improve workplace water quality.
What Does LCR Require?
The LCR divides PWSs into three groups based on the numbers of customers served, and assigns tailored responsibilities for testing, corrosion control, source water treatment, and pipe replacement. The three groups are:Read More
One of California’s longstanding amplifications of national environmental health and safety (EH&S) programs is provided by “Proposition 65.” I summarized these provisions here. As I described, the main thrust of this 1986 state enactment is to provide warnings about potentially hazardous chemicals, to customers, workers, and other “potentially exposed individuals." Prop 65 provides sample texts for warnings, including “safe harbor” text for product labels and in-store signage. After 30 years, the state is revising these safe harbors to be more informative. Revised safe harbor text became available for use August 30, 2016 and replace their expiring predecessors on August 30, 2018. Since we’re half way through this two year transition, it’s a good time to review.Read More
The presence of “hazardous” materials in your workplace can trigger a wide variety of environmental health and safety requirements. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state worker protection agencies issue standards to protect workers during occupational handling and storage. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state environmental agencies issue requirements governing the management of hazardous wastes, and emissions to a variety of environmental media (air, water and land).Read More
Nearly all regulatory laws provide for civil – and sometimes even criminal – penalties for noncompliance. Penalty amounts (“XXX dollars per day of violation” for example) are typically adopted as part of the original legislation. But over time, the relative sting of these penalties declines with inflation. To counteract the possibility that less painful penalties will be less effective incentives for compliance, U.S. federal law has directed most agencies to make periodic “cost of living” adjustments to maximum available civil penalty levels (there are no provisions for standing periodic adjustments to criminal penalties).
How Did These Requirements Work During 1990-2016?
The first version of this approach was enacted by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, which directed the President to report annually on any adjustments made under existing statutory authority, and to calculate what such adjustments would have been if more agencies had the authority to make them.
Congress amended the Act in 1996 to require most agencies to make inflation adjustments every four years, but precluding adjustments to penalties under the following:
Even workplaces with very limited chemical use probably use cleaning supplies. If these supplies are bought in typical retail packaging intended for consumer use, the employer and employees may lack ready access to chemical content information beyond that on the labels. That’s because the Hazard Communication Standard (Hazcom) administered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exempts consumer products in their final form for consumer use, unless worker use is greater than that by typical consumers.Read More
One of California’s many unique environmental, health and safety (EH&S) laws is its “Corporate Criminal Liability Act (CCLA).” CCLA provides greatly expanded potential personal criminal liabilities for violations by managers, so is often referred to as the “Be a Manager, Go to Jail” law. Enacted in 1990, CCLA draws both from occupational safety and product liability laws, to provide sweeping requirements for corporations and managers to abate or warn exposed individuals (including employees) about a broad variety of serious concealed dangers occurring in a broad variety of circumstances, including both workplaces and products. Although this law has been used by prosecutors and advocates to strike fear into the hearts of corporate managers, there have been few reported cases in its nearly three decades on the books.Read More
May was Better Hearing and Speech Month, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH reminded employers that Occupational hearing loss (OHL) is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States. Each year, about 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work. NIOSH reports that U.S. employers paid more than $1.5 million in penalties for not protecting workers from noise in 2016, and that $242 million is spent annually on workers' compensation for hearing loss disability.Read More