OSHA Increases Maximum Civil Money Penalties to Start the New Year

Pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, OSHA increases the maximum penalties for serious and other-than-serious violations from $15,625 per violation to $16,131 per violation. In addition, the maximum penalty for willful or repeat violations increased from $156,259 per violation to $161,323 per violation. The increases became effective as of January 16, 2024.

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OSHA’s Cold Stress Guidance

As we head into the New Year, it is a good time for businesses to review OSHA’s cold stress guidance (link below). OSHA reminds employers that monitoring the wind chill temperature and workers’ physical condition while performing tasks will help them assess cold stress exposure and assist them in developing strategies to ensure work can be done safely. This is particularly true for employees not accustomed to working in the cold or those returning to such conditions, i.e., acclimatization, which is also an important tool in minimizing heat stress. Other cold stress risk factors identified by OSHA include 1) wetness, dressing improperly and exhaustion; 2) predisposing health conditions such as diabetes; and 3) poor physical conditioning. To help minimize cold stress hazards, OSHA lists potential abatement as including:

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Westray Bill Gaining Traction Across Canada

Guest Author: Norm Keith, B.A.(Econ), J.D., LL.M. Mr. Keith is a leading management-side employment and labor lawyer, the author of 12 books, 8 of which deal with OHS, and is a senior partner at the law firm of KPMG Law LLP, and may be reached at: nkieth@kpmg.ca.

The enduring legal legacy of the Westray Mine disaster is the Bill C-45 amendment to the Criminal Code that established the new crime of Occupational Health and Safety (“OHS”) criminal negligence for individuals and organizations. Often referred to as the Westray Bill, it introduced a legal duty and accountability for corporate and individual persons to take “reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm” in the Criminal Code. R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46. This amendment allowed for the police to investigate and Crown Attorneys to prosecute employers, directors, officers, managers, and even workers if they breached their legal duty and a worker was injured in the course of their employment. Recent changes in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada have seen an increase in the use of the Westray Bill as an enforcement mechanism for safety violations. This article will review the background of the Westray Bill, the critical content of the Westray Bill, some of the reasons the law has rarely been enforced in the past, and why it appears the criminal offense of OHS Criminal Negligence is gaining traction and increased use across the country.

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Are Random Acts of Violence Recordable OSHA Injuries?

According to a recent OSHA standard interpretation letter, probably yes. In the May 17, 2023 letter, an employee drove the company vehicle on a public roadway between service calls. As the employee approached a car accident, the driver who caused the accident entered the company’s vehicle, shot the employee, stole the vehicle, and fled the scene. There was no evidence that the employee did anything to provoke the attacker. The employer subsequently learned that the attacker had been in the midst of a serial crime spree at the time of the accident.

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OSHA Issues Final Electronic Recordkeeping Rule

On July 17, 2023, OSHA released its final rule expanding its electronic recordkeeping and reporting requirements. As expected, the rule largely mimics OSHA’s 2022 proposal and takes effect January 1, 2024. The rule requires establishments with 100 or more employees in certain high-hazard industries, i.e., industry classification, to electronically submit information from their Form 300 (Log), Form 301(Incident Report), and Form 300-A (Summary) annually. 

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Information About OSHA’s Free Safety and Health Consultation Service

Creating a strong safety culture in a business has many components. It requires the commitment and participation of the executive management team and all supervisory and non-supervisory employees throughout the organization. A critical part of accomplishing this requires conducting internal and/or third-party safety and health audits on a routine basis and whenever business needs otherwise dictate, e.g., after an injury or a near-miss incident. There are many benefits to having regular health and safety audits at your business, including increasing efficiency, avoiding legal risks, ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations, helping to keep insurance premiums low, and keeping workers out of danger. Doing so is also a clear sign to employees that the business is prepared to dedicate resources and time to ensure their safety and health is not just a lip service type issue. OSHA generally recommends that all employers conduct regular safety audits at least once a year and, in some situations, may impose fines on companies that fail to have them as a regulatory compliance matter. 

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Wildfire Smoke Exposure: What are an Employer’s Obligations?

When it became apparent yesterday that the wildfire smoke cascading throughout parts of the Northeastern United States was having a serious health effect on anyone outside and exposed to the harmful particulates contained in such smoke, certain outside activities were simply canceled, such as the major league baseball games in Philadelphia and New York City. But what if your business cannot simply give everyone the day off and you are concerned about your legal obligations to your employees, especially if their outside work is exposing them to potential adverse health effects?

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