Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Deadlocked Supreme Court of Canada allows restriction of owner-employer contracting out OHS responsibilities to contractors

Posted by Jon Elliott on Thu, Nov 30, 2023

Throughout North America, Canadian occupational health and safety (OHS) agencies and US occupational safety and health (OSH) agencies administer and enforce worker protection laws. These laws require extensive employer efforts to protect employees – although in some situations it’s unclear which employer(s) are responsible for which workers. These complex situations include construction sites where one or more landowners or property occupiers hire one or more contractors to performer work. In November 2023 the Supreme Court of Canada deadlocked four-to-three-to-one in a case involving liability for a municipal “owner” that had attempted to contract all responsibilities (and potential liabilities) to the contractor (“constructor”) hired to repair a municipal water main, after a worksite death. (R. v. Greater Sudbury (City)) Because the Supreme Court deadlocked, the Ontario Court of Appeal decision finding the city liable becomes the law of the case, overturning many years of practice in which owners contracted-out OHS responsibilities to their constructors.

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Tags: OSHA, Supreme Court, workplace safety, Canada, Ontario Court, Ontario

OSHA proposes to clarify inspection procedures

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Sep 13, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is authorized to inspect regulated workplaces, although it generally limits its inspections to workplaces deemed highly hazardous (often targeted sector-wide through National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) or their regional or state equivalents), or in response to complaints or reported incidents of injury or illness (I&I). OSHA regulations include inspection procedures (29 CFR 1903), which OSHA proposed on August 30, 2023 to clarify and revise slightly. The rest of this note summarizes OSHA’s procedures briefly, including the proposed changes.

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Tags: Employer Best Practices, OSHA, Employee Rights, Employment, workplace safety

OSHA revises Injury and Illness reporting requirements for some large employers

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Aug 01, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most employers with 10 or more employees at an “establishment” to prepare and maintain records of occupational injuries and illnesses (I&I) as they occur (I&I Logs). OSHA also requires employers to post an annual I&I Summary in each workplace “establishment” by February 1, summarizing that workplace’s I&Is during the previous calendar year. In addition, OSHA requires some employers to submit some of this I&I information electronically to the agency. (I wrote about the initial electronic reporting requirements HERE). On July 21 OSHA updated and revised these electronic reporting requirements (finalizing a proposal I wrote about HERE). The remainder of this note summarizes these changes.

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Tags: OSHA, Protecting employees, workplace safety, Injury, Illness

OSHA advisory panel addresses workplace violence prevention in health care

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Jul 04, 2023

Although the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not issued any formal regulations requiring employers to address workplace violence, OSHA’s attention to workplace violence prevention (WPV) have grown steadily over time. As an example, OSHA recently convened a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel to address “Prevention of Workplace Violence in Healthcare and Social Assistance sectors.” In May 2023, the Panel issued its final report, outlining steps OSHA should consider next. This review returned to an agency Request for Information posted in the Federal Register in December 2016, just before President Trump assumed office. The remainder of this note discusses the Panel’s recent findings and recommendations.

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OSHA launches National Emphasis Program to address falls

Posted by Jon Elliott on Mon, Jun 05, 2023

On May 1. 2023, the US federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to focus inspection and enforcement resources on “Falls” in order to “identify and to reduce hazards which are causing or likely to cause serious injuries and fatalities from falls while working at heights,” which OSHA identifies as “the leading cause of fatalities and serious injuries in all industries.” The remainder of this note summarizes the NEP, and OSHA’s general regulatory approaches to fall hazards and fall protection.

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OSHA Medical Services and First Aid requirements

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, May 03, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “Medical Services and First Aid Standard” requires employers to provide their employees with ready access to medical attention, including treatment and consultation, in the event of an occupational injury or illness. (29 CFR 1910.151). These services can be made available onsite, or at medical facilities in “near proximity” for use by injured employees. This Standard has not been revised since OSHA adopted it in 1998, but the agency has updated and expanded compliance guidance in the intervening 25 years; this includes OSHA’s “Best Practices Guide: Fundamentals of a Workplace First-Aid Program” (2006). The rest of this note discusses these requirements.

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Tags: OSHA, Safety and Health at Work

Biden Administration again requests significant OSHA budget increases

Posted by Jon Elliott on Wed, Apr 12, 2023

On March 9, the Biden Administration issued its budget proposal for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 (October 1, 2023 through September 30, 2024). The administration proposes a $738.7 million budget for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a 17% ($106.3 million) increase above OSHA’s adopted 2023 budget of $632.4 million (the Administration had proposed $701 million), and adopted 2022 budget of $610 million (the Administration had proposed $665 million). Congress is likely to cut the President’s proposals once again, but it’s still worth reviewing the Administration’s ongoing priorities, so I will summarize the latest proposal in the rest of this note.

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Tags: OSHA, Joe Biden, Budget

Protecting young workers

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Apr 07, 2023

Recent enforcement actions provide reminders that young workers are subject to special legal protections – special requirements apply to workers 14-24 and prohibit most employment of even younger people. As an example of these actions, on March 21 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued citations against a Pennsylvania contractor after a 17 year old employee fell off a roof (his employment violated “hazardous occupations” prohibitions). As another example, in November 2022 the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) filed for a nationwide injunction against the nation’s largest food sanitation company (Packers Sanitation Services) after finding 31 children ages 13-17 in “hazardous occupations” including cleaning dangerous powered equipment during overnight shifts.

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Tags: OSHA, DOL, WHD, Young workers

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