For nearly a year now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other agencies have been issuing guidance to employers regarding COIVD-19, including identification, protection, and back-to-work procedures. One of incoming President Biden’s first Executive Orders (EO 13999 of January 21, 2021) directs OSHA to issue updated worker protection guidance to employers within two weeks. On January 29, OSHA met this requirement by publishing “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” which it explains is intended for employers and workers to use to identify risks and plan responses. The remainder of this note summarizes OSHA’s new guidance.
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to ensure workplace air quality, as part of the agency’s broad mission to protect workers’ safety and health. Instead of a single comprehensive standard, OSHA incorporates air-related issues into standards requiring employers to consider whether workplace conditions might require respiratory protections (which I discussed HERE), and additional standards addressing routine workplace air contaminants (which I discussed HERE), and special hazards of confined spaces (which I discussed HERE). OSHA also applies specific ventilation standards in workplaces that involve abrasive blasting; grinding, polishing, and buffing operations; and spray finishing operations.Read More
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) generally requires employers to ensure that employees (and other occupants of your workplace) have adequate and safe routes to leave work areas during fires and similar emergencies. OSHA presents these requirements in its Exit Routes Standard (29 CFR 1910.36 – 1910.37), with tie-ins to its emergency action plan and fire prevention plan standards (29 CFR 1910.38 and 1910.39). The following discussion summarizes the Exit Routes Standard.
During the COIVD-19 pandemic, there have been many reports of angry arguments between people who don’t want to wear masks or practice social distance and retail staff members trying to enforce local requirements. Some of these confrontations escalate to violence. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide formal guidelines to retail businesses, offering ways for protecting workers by “Limiting Workplace Violence Associated with COVID-19 Prevention Policies in Retail and Services Businesses.” The remainder of this note describes CDC’s latest guidance.Read More
The federal Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board – which usually refers to itself as the Chemical Safety Board or CSB -- has issued guidance on the hazards of explosive and combustible dust. The report is intended to identify the key barriers to improvement in the control and mitigation of combustible dust hazards. The report was developed by a contractor to CSB, after a fatal 2017 dust explosion at the Didion Milling facility in Cambria, Wisconsin. In October 2018, CSB issued a “Call to Action” to gather comments on the management, control and understanding of combustible dust (which I wrote about HERE). The objective of this project was to make sense of comments submitted in response to the Call to Action. CSB ultimately received 57 responses, which its contractor reviewed and supplemented with additional research.
I’ve written numerous times in this space about specific efforts by the Trump administration to reduce environmental regulation and enforcement. A new study from the University of Michigan Law School quantifies reductions in the administration’s criminal enforcement levels. The report is part of the school’s “Environmental Crimes Project,” and includes the first two years of the Trump Administration as the latest in a 14-year series of federal environmental enforcement data. Readers should note that federal criminal environmental enforcement is brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA and delegated state agencies bring their own civil cases, and most state criminal enforcement is brought by state prosecutors on behalf of state regulatory agencies (I summarized agency enforcement in the first year of the Trump administration HERE).Read More
Western North America is suffering from huge wildfires this year. I’ve written pieces discussing ways to protect workplaces from fire (HERE) and to protect workers during wildfires (HERE). Today’s note discusses worker safety during cleanup after wildfires. I synthesize guidance from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California EPA (CalEPA), and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).Read More
In 1987, California adopted the Air Toxics “Hot Spots” Information and Assessment Act, responding to increasing concern over toxics in the air (AB 2588 (Connelly, Sterling)). This law complements California’s enforcement of national requirements governing stationary source emissions of air toxics. The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) required the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish and maintain a list of air toxics, named as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), and to set emissions standards (National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs) for many HAP emission sources; California incorporates HAP/NESHAP requirements into the state’s Toxic Air Contaminant (TAC) / Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM) program. (I discussed these requirements HERE).
The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish and maintain a list of air toxics, named as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), and to set emissions standards for many sources of such pollutants. HAPs include heavy metals, organics, and other airborne pollutants that are not otherwise regulated as “criteria” air pollutants (such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and ground level ozone). This note summarizes requirements applicable to stationary sources.Read More
Summer is wildfire season in many areas, although its importance to your workplace obviously varies. We worry more here in California than folks in New England -- as I started this note my home region around San Francisco Bay had the worst air quality on the planet during a siege of wildfires from lightning strikes. If your workplace is a downtown high rise, wildfire risks are less than if it's in a suburban office park – and if you’re telecommuting during the COVID pandemic, it may depend less on your employer’s location than where you’ve set yourself up.Read More