Public health and worker safety agencies have issued and re-issued directions to employers for coping with the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Most of these directives have been non-binding recommendations, although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state OSH agencies have reminded employers that their “General Duty Clause(s)” requires protective responses to recognized hazards. (most recently, in June OSHA revised its generally-applicable guidelines “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace”; I wrote about these HERE). Several states have taken the additional step and issued COVID regulations, beginning with Virginia in July 2020 (I wrote about it HERE).Read More
Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog
As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, public health and worker safety agencies have issued and re-issued directions to employers for copying with evolving situations. On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its benchmark guidance for management of workplace COVID-19 risks. 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).
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing several corrections to handrail and stair rail requirements it adopted in 2017 as part of major revisions to its Walking-Working Surfaces Standard (I wrote about those revisions HERE and HERE). The present proposal identifies several typographical errors and ambiguities in the 2017 revision, which OSHA states have led to confusion and questions from employers around the country. The proposal would create a transition period for employers that made plausible interpretations of the provisions to be corrected.
Although the main focus of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) requirements, that employers protect workers against recognized ongoing hazards, associated with routine activities, employers’ responsibilities also extend to likely emergencies. Several OSHA standards address emergency conditions. These include emergency exit routes (which I wrote about HERE), emergency action plans (which I wrote about HERE), and fire prevention plans (FPPs). The remainder of this note discusses FPPs. Some OSHA standards require employers to create FPPs as part of their compliance programs. Even if your organization is not required by OSHA to do so, local fire codes or state requirements may apply. In every situation, you should consider the benefits of fire prevention and response activities.
Since the 1980s, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has required most employers to protect their workers from workplace chemical hazards, and to train workers to protect themselves. Most employers are subject to OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS; 29 CFR 1910.1200), or to variants imposed by states delegated OSHA’s authority. OSHA revises its HCS from time to time; by far the biggest revisions were adopted in March 2012, when OSHA recast HCS to align it with the United Nations-sponsored Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). OSHA’s 2012 revisions conformed the US to GHS Revision 3, which was issued internationally in 2002. The most obvious change was the adoption of Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) to replace longstanding Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), but employers faced a series of deadlines during 2013-2016.Read More
Many of President Biden’s immediate priorities relate to the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include worker protection measures, which generally fall within the purview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Executive Order (EO) 13999 of January 21, 2021 (Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety) directs OSHA to rapidly enhance COVID-19 protection activities. The EO directed OSHA to update worker protection guidance to employers within two weeks, which OSHA met by publishing “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” which I discussed HERE.Read More
Regulators often rely on whistleblowers to reveal ongoing violations, and prosecutors rely on whistleblowers and informants from time to time to “make their cases.” Recognizing this value, many federal and state laws provide explicit protections for employees who report actual or potential violations to their employers or to the agencies that administer and enforce those laws.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has administered such a provision for workers disclosing violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for more than 40 years. In the intervening decades, a wide variety of federal statutes have expanded OSHA’s whistleblower protection activities, assigning OSHA to enforce whistleblower protection provisions of other laws; as of 2021 this authority covers 24 distinct federal laws. The best known and most litigated of these non-worker laws probably is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOx) – Section 806 of that law protects whistleblowers who report activities that may violate anti-fraud provisions of the federal Securities Acts. The rest of this posting identifies these laws, and summarizes how OSHA administers them.Read More
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.
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.