Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Keeping safe in winter weather

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 11, 2024

This is the time of year when employers in many parts of the continent should be making focused effort to protect workers against winter weather. Occupational safety and health regulators include environmental and ambient hazards among those that employers must consider as part of their “general duty” to protect workers against recognized hazards. 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.

Agency regulations cover many specified types of situations, and guidelines are available for more. For example, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) is drawing attention to its “Winter Weather” webpage as a source of information. The rest of this note summarizes information from OSHA’s webpage and those of other occupational safety agencies.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, workplace safety, Winter, Weather

Saskatchewan extending workplace violence prevention requirements to all employers

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Mar 07, 2024

Saskatchewan’s Employment Act (SEA) requires employers to take action to protect their employees against workplace violence. Since 1997, express requirements have applied to workplaces “prescribed” by regulations based on higher hazards; effective on May 17, 2024 these requirements apply in all workplaces, implementing SEA amendments enacted in 2023 by Bill 91 (“The Saskatchewan Employment (Part III) Amendment Act, 2022”). The rest of this summarizes workplace violence prevention (WVP) requirements set forth in the SEA, and in regulations issued and administered by the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Division of Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety.

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Tags: Health & Safety, Workplace violence, Safety and Health at Work, workplace safety, safety violations, OHS, SEA

EPA tightens national air standard for fine particulates

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Mar 01, 2024

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on February 7. 2024 its decision to tighten one the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns; (PM-2.5; also call “fines” in contrast to larger particulates). This decision completes EPA’s reconsideration of a decision in 2020 not to adjust the PM-2.5 requirements (I wrote about that decision HERE); the change reflects in part the changed priorities between the Trump and Biden administrations. The rest of this note summarizes NAAQS issues as they apply to PM-2.5.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean air, Air Toxics, Environment, Clean Air Act, Environmental Policy

Canada: Federal Court rejects listing of Plastic Manufactured Items as “Toxic Substances” under Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Feb 19, 2024

Among its many provisions, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) creates several lists of “toxic substances,” and empowers Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to revise the list. In 2021, ECCC add “plastic manufactured items (PMI)” to one of these lists, but was sued by manufacturers seeking to void the addition.  Extensive CEPA amendments were enacted in April 2023 (“Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act” (Bill S-5)), including revisions to the toxic substance lists – including recodification of the listing of PMI – and left ECCC’s authority over toxic substances relatively unchanged, so the litigation continued. In November 2023, the Federal Court ruled that the CEPA amendments did not moot the issues in the litigation, and ruled that ECCC had exceeded its statutory and constitutional authority when listing PMI.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, Greenhouse Gas, climate change, Environment, Environmental Policy, Climate, ECCC, CEPA

Huge Clean Air Act settlement against truck emission cheater

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 13, 2024

On January 10, 2024, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Justice, and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) filed a settlement agreement with Cummins, Inc. covering nearly one million Ram vehicles for which Cummins supplied diesel engines with illegal software-based “defeat devices” that produced misleading emission certification results compared with significantly higher emissions while the vehicles are in actual use. Cummins will pay the largest CAA penalties ever ($1,675 million in federal and state penalties), will fund environmental mitigation projects to compensate for excess nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions ($175 million), and will also recall 630,000 vehicles (model years 2013-2019) to remove the defeat devices (estimated costs $150 million, including warranty extensions). Cummins will also implement corporate governance, organizational, and technical process reforms to minimize the likelihood of future violations.

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Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, clean air, Environment, Clean Air Act, Environmental Policy

OSHA issues new Process Safety Management Standard enforcement guidance

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Feb 09, 2024

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Standard for Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (usually referred to as “PSM”) requires extensive risk assessments and reduction efforts by facilities where a significant incident involving these chemicals might have catastrophic consequences. OSHA adopted PSM in 1992, and has made only minor technical revisions in the ensuing three decades. OSHA has also issued enforcement guidance to its inspectors, which it had not revised since 2012. However, in December 2023 OSHA issued an extensive new PSM enforcement policy, most of which is formatted in a total of 192 Questions and Responses designed to guide enforcement – and compliance that can obviate enforcement. The remainder of this note provides a very brief summary of the 120 page Enforcement Policy document.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, workplace safety, chemical safety, PSM

Federal Agencies Adjusting Civil Penalty Levels for Inflation

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 06, 2024

Many laws provide for civil – and sometimes even criminal – penalties for noncompliance. New legislation typically sets penalty levels (“XXX dollars per day of violation” for example), at levels intended to provide meaningful deterrence and punishment for noncompliance. But over time, the relative sting of these penalties declines with inflation. To counteract the possibility that less painful penalties reduce incentives for compliance, most U.S. federal agencies are required to make annual “cost of living” adjustments to maximum available civil penalty levels (criminal penalties are not affected).

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Tags: EPA, 2020 US Presidential election, Inflation, CPI, Federal Agencies, Penalties, GAO

Nearly time for hazardous waste biennial reports

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Feb 01, 2024

Federal laws (commonly referred to as RCRA, after the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976) provide comprehensive management requirements for parties involved in hazardous waste management, from “cradle to grave” covering generators, transporters, and offsite management facilities. Among these many provisions are requirements that “large quantity generators (LQGs)” submit biennial reports to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or delegated states in March of every even-numbered year. March 2024 is the next such deadline, so now is a good time to review biennial report requirements to ensure compliance at qualifying facilities.

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Tags: EPA, RCRA, Hazardous Waste, AHW, LQG

OSHA proposing Emergency Response Standard

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Jan 19, 2024

On December 21`, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to develop an Emergency Response Standard that will update, expand and supersede OSHA’s existing Fire Brigades Standard. The new standard will extend detailed OSHA protections to additional emergency responders, including not just firefighters but also emergency medical service providers and technical search and rescue workers. The rest of this note describes these proposed changes.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Fire Prevention, Fire Safety, NPRM

OSHA encourages switch from hard hats to safety helmets

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jan 09, 2024

On November 22, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Safety and Health information Bulletin (SHIB) discussing “safety helmets” as evolved alternatives to traditional hard hats, and offering recommendations for situations where employers should switch. On December 11 the agency announced that it’s following its own advice and replacing its own employees/inspectors hard hats with safety helmets. The rest of this note discusses OSHA provisions for personal protective equipment (PPE) providing head protection, and the rationale and examples of the benefits of upgraded headgear.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, workplace safety