Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

OSHA considering changes to Voluntary Prevention Programs

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 13, 2023

Since 1982, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has administered “Voluntary Protection Programs” (VPPs) to encourage employers to establish and implement worker Safety and Health Programs that exceed minimal efforts to comply with applicable OSHA standards. OSHA designs VPP eligibility to encourage employer/employee/OSHA cooperation, and to reward such cooperation by granting employers increased flexibility and reduced likelihood of inspection. OSHA presently oversees three programs (which I described in more detail HERE), and is undertaking a “VPP Modernization” initiative to evaluate ways for “modernizing, improving, and expanding” these efforts. On February 16 OSHA posted questions about possible changes, which I discuss in the rest of this note.

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Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, Employment, VPP

OSHA applies General Duty Clause to protect warehouse employees

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Mar 06, 2023

On February 1, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued citations to Amazon company warehouses in three states, continuing investigations into the company’s practices in other states. OSHA is asserting that the company is violating the Employer’s General Duty Clause by failing to protect warehouse workers from low back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. Although California enforces specific ergonomics requirements (which I’ve written about HERE), OSHA and other states instead regulate ergonomics violations by targeted industries through their General Duty Clauses. The remainder of this note discusses these recent OSHA efforts to protect warehouse workers.

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Tags: OSHA, Employee Rights, Protecting employees, Employment, Labour & Employment, Amazon

Time for annual Injury and Illness summaries

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Mar 01, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most employers to prepare and maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses (I&I Logs) as they occur. OSHA also requires employers to post an annual I&I Summary in each “establishment” within their workplace by February 1, summarizing that workplace’s I&Is during the previous calendar year. Delegated state-run programs impose comparable requirements. Furthermore, OSHA requires some employers to submit their summaries electronically to OSHA – this year by March 3, 2023. The rest of this note summarizes the current requirements.

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Tags: OSHA, NAICS, Injury, Illness, BLS

NIOSH offers Best Practice guidance for employers that host “temp” workers’

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 28, 2023

Is your organization hiring "temp" workers —to hedge your labor costs while gearing back up after COVID-19 perhaps? If so, occupational safety and health agencies consider your employer to be the “host employer” of these workers, and provides requirements to protect them against occupational hazards. Last year I summarized the latest US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance (HERE). Last month, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a new guidance, “Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host Employers.” The remainder of this note summarized this NIOSH guidance, which is primarily organized into three sections.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, OSHA, Cal/OSHA

OSHA reminds employers about carbon monoxide hazards

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Feb 24, 2023

On February 7, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a reminder to employers to protect employees from workplace carbon monoxide (CO) risks, particularly those associated with wintertime use of portable generators and heating equipment inside enclosed spaces. That reminder includes links to OSHA’s “Carbon Monoxide Fact Sheet,” which outlines hazards and appropriate employer responses. The rest of this note discusses OSHA’s explanation of these risks and how to manage them.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, OSHA, Employment, Carbon Dioxide

EPA and Corps of Engineers finalize re-definition of “Waters of the United States"

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Feb 21, 2023

On January 18, 2023, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) adopted revised definitions of “waters of the United States.” The Clean Water Act (CWA) empowers federal agencies to regulate activities that may affect “waters of the United States”—sometimes called “navigable waters.” These activities include water quality planning and discharge regulation by EPA and delegated states, and regulation of projects that may lead to “dredge and fill” of waters, requiring permits from the Corps. The remainder of this note offers a brief summary of the last 20 years of judicial reinterpretations and regulatory responses, and discusses the latest revisions.


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Tags: EPA, Clear water, Environment, water

US tightens federal standards for heavy-duty vehicles

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Feb 08, 2023

On January 24, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published tighter standards for emissions from “heavy-duty” engines and vehicles, beginning with model year 2027. These new standards form the important first step toward implementation of EPA’s Clean Truck Plan, which has the ultimate goal of zero emissions from motor vehicles. The new standards are more than 80% stronger than current standards, which have been in place more than 20 years. These changes therefore continue the recent trend toward tighter federal emission standards for motor vehicles, including light-duty vehicles (automobiles and light trucks; I discussed the latest rules for light-duty vehicles, covering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for model years 2023-2026 HERE). The remainder of this note discusses the latest heavy-duty vehicle standards.

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Tags: EPA, ghg, CAA

California adopts nonemergency COVID vaccination and testing rules

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jan 23, 2023

Since 2021, occupational safety and health agencies have enacted a variety of rules addressing the workplace hazards of the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies have generally used their emergency authority, which allow more administrative leeway to speed enactment but then require automatic expiration within months (although re-enactments are possible). I’ve written about a number of these efforts, including the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “emergency temporary standard (ETS),” which was stymied by litigation (see HERE). Some states have enacted their own ETSs; California adopted its own ETS and then readopted it every 180 days in order to keep rules in force (see HERE).

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Tags: Coronavirus, Covid-19, California

BC Supreme Court finds that Covid-19 closures did not "frustrate" employment contract

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Jan 18, 2023

The many orders and rules issued by public and occupational health agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic create massive disruptions to employment relationships at organizations worldwide. The Supreme Court of British Columbia recently considered a wrongful dismissal lawsuit following one employer’s response to BC provincial health orders affecting the place of employment. The court acknowledged the significant disruptions to ongoing activities, but refused to apply the doctrine of “frustration” to relieve he employer of notice and severance duties to its employees. The remainder of this blog discusses this case (Fanzone v 516400 B.C. Ltd., 2022 BCSC 2089 (CanLII)).

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Tags: Coronavirus, Covid-19, Employment, Employment Law, Supreme Court

EPA expands Toxics Release Inventory chemical list, and proposes lower reporting thresholds for PFAS chemicals

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jan 09, 2023

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken two actions to expand chemical release reporting under its Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program. EPA administers TRI as one of the distinct programs created by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA, also referred to as SARA Title III). EPA has finalized its previously-proposed addition of 12 chemicals, and separately has proposed to tighten existing requirements for two more. (I’ve discussed TRI several times, including HERE. The rest of this note discusses these changes.

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Tags: EPA, chemical safety, Toxic, Toxics Release