The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 provides the national framework for worker protections and empowers the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create and enforce worker protection standards. The OSH Act authorizes states to apply to OSHA for delegation of this authority (referred to as “state plan states”). In addition to these agency actions, however, the OSH Act also empowers the workers themselves to stand up for these rights, and to complain to agencies when they believe their rights are being violated. Beginning in 1973, OSHA has promulgated regulations formalizing employee rights to be free of adverse actions by their employers – “discrimination” in the language of the law and regulations – for exercising their rights to self-protection (codified in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 1977). Effective September 3, 2021, OSHA has updated these part 1977 regulations to track US Supreme Court decisions that tend to narrow employee rights somewhat. The remainder of this note summarizes OSHA’s part 1977 regulations and discusses the latest revisions.
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
British Columbia moved into Step 3 of the BC Restart Plan on July 1, 2021, and one of the main implications for employers is a shift from COVID-19 safety plans to general communicable disease prevention. WorkSafeBC has released its guidance on communicable disease prevention, and employers should be adapting their COVID-19 safety plans to communicable disease prevention with this guidance in mind.Read More
In June, the Ontario Court of Appeal issued a decision addressing two issues that should interest corporate directors – certainly in the province, and probably throughout Canada. The case is O’Reilly v. ClearMRI Solutions Ltd., and the issues it addresses are:
when might two companies be considered “common employers” of a single individual employee, sharing responsibilities for compliance with applicable labour laws; and
when might corporate directors, including directors of “common employers,” become personally liable for their company’s non-compliance with those laws.
The rest of this note discusses these issues, and the O’Reilly case decision.
In recent years, governments around the world have extended solid waste management efforts to support—and in some cases require—recycling and resource recovery efforts to divert more solid wastes from landfills, and to substitute reused materials or raw materials. Increasingly, specialized stewardship programs target particular types of hazardous wastes – used oils, spent batteries, etc. – the national advocacy group Product Stewardship Institute identifies more than 120 such programs spread among 34 US states (I introduced these efforts HERE). Maine already has a number of these programs.Read More
As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, public health and worker safety agencies have issued and re-issued directions to employers. On August 13, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its benchmark guidance for workplace COVID-19 risk management. The remainder of this note summarizes OSHA’s newly-revised “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.” (I wrote about the initial January 2021 version HERE and the June 2021 revisions HERE). This revision responds to “breakthrough” infections among vaccinated people by incorporating the latest the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommendations for masking of employees who are fully vaccinated but work in “areas of substantial or high community transmission” – which as of this writing covers nearly 95% of US counties.
The remainder of this note summarizes the guidance (including unchanged elements) and then highlights the new masking guidance.
Solid waste management has come a long way since enactment of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA) of 1965 to address the national “landfill crisis.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) applies SWDA authority to adopt landfill standards, which are administered by state and local governments. EPA also empowers these state and local governments to do more, not just through additional disposal standards, but through expanded requirements for recycling and resource recovery efforts designed to keep more solid wastes out of landfills. In addition, extended management programs impose “product stewardship” and “extended producer responsibility” on manufacturers. This note discusses these introduces these ideas, and summarizes the extent of state programs that apply them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all industries to some degree over the past year. With offices shut down, and some workforces working remotely, many offices have been left vacant. At the beginning of the pandemic, food and beverage and consumer goods manufacturing facilities were temporarily shut down or production was significantly reduced. Restaurants and retail facilities were closed or transitioned to online ordering and pick-up. Only critically essential services and operations managed to stay open.
At many of these facilities, Aboveground Storage Tanks (ASTs) and/or Portable Containers (drums/totes) are used for oil or fuel storage critical to operations. If these facilities meet the criteria indicated below, then the facility must prepare and implement a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan according to the Federal Oil Pollution Prevention regulation 40 CFR part 112.Read More
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is conducting a formal public review to consider whether to update its Mechanical Power Presses Standard (29 CFR section 1910.217). OSHA issued the Standard in 1971, and adopted the only formal revision in 1988 (to recognize and guide use of sensers to protect press operators). OSHA has also included these devices in a series of “National Emphasis Programs” intended to focus on safety and compliance. OSHA published a request for public comments in the July 28, 2021 Federal Register, seeking suggestions by October 28. The remainder of this note summarizes the longstanding existing requirements, and questions raised by OSHA in this first general review in half a century.
The US government promulgates a “National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan” – more commonly referred to as the National Contingency Plan (NCP) – as the blueprint for responses to spills of oil and hazardous substances. The NCP is used for responses under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Superfund law (Comprehensive Emergency Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)), and is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (although you should note that the first NCP was issued in 1968, not only before CWA and CERCLA were enacted, and even before EPA before was created).
On May 28, the Biden Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 (October 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022). As anticipated based on statements from Mr. Biden while a candidate and since his inauguration, the proposal includes many dramatic changes from former president Trump’s proposed budgets. The administration proposes a 21.6 % ($2 billion) increase in the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget above EPA’s adopted 2021 budget of $9.2 billion. Roughly 90 percent of this increase is related to climate controls and environmental justice, broadly defined.