OSHA Withdraws COVID ETS for Healthcare

On December 27, OSHA announced it is allowing its ETS for healthcare facilities to sunset but that it would continue to work expeditiously to promulgate a permanent standard for coronavirus-related hazards.  In its statement, OSHA formally withdrew the non-recordkeeping portions of the ETS, however, stated that the recordkeeping requirements for employers covered under that separate rule which require them to maintain logs of all employee COVID cases regardless of whether they are considered work-related or not would remain in effect.  In addition, healthcare facilities must continue to affirmatively report COVID work-related inpatient hospitalizations within 24 hours and fatalities within 8 hours. 

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Sixth Circuit Lifts OSHA ETS Stay

Last night, the Sixth Circuit lifted the Fifth Circuit’s national stay on OSHA’s general duty COVID ETS. Shortly thereafter, OSHA issued information to employers stating it would exercise enforcement discretion and not issue citations for noncompliance with any ETS requirement before January 10, 2022 and would not issue citations for noncompliance with the testing requirements before February 9, 2022 provided employers are exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance.

Not surprisingly, a petition has now also been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The roller coaster ride continues.

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Robots and OSHA

In Will Smith’s hit movie, I, Robot set in 2035 robots were allegedly governed by the Three Laws of Robotics which were originally created by Isaac Asimov. The first law states, “[a] robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” This law is not followed in the movie (or at least only a very strained interpretation of it) by certain robots and Will Smith needs to come to the rescue of humanity.  (more…)

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Baby It’s Cold Outside…So Remember OSHA’s Cold Stress Guide

As much of the country is experiencing record low temperatures, it is a good reminder that failing to take appropriate measures to protect employees working in such environments and avoiding other hazards associated with the cold such as preventing slips on snow and ice could provide the basis for a general duty violation under OSHA.  OSHA’s tagline for employers to prevent cold stress-related injuries and illnesses is “Plan, Equip, Train.”  (more…)

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Sexual Harassment and Workplace Safety and Health: An OSHA Issue?

It would not surprise most people to know that OSHA does not have a specific standard governing sexual harassment in the workplace.  However, is there a link between sexual harassment and workplace safety and health issues?  Yes.  For example, sexual harassment could lead to increased stress for the victim which could manifest itself in a number of physical and mental ways.  If the victim is employed in a safety-sensitive position, this might also compromise the employee’s ability to perform the job safely.  Sexual harassment could make victims less likely to report legitimate safety issues or to report accidents particularly if the harasser is part of the reporting process.  Of course, if sexual harassment includes actual or threatened physical conduct, we move into potential workplace violence issues.

Furthermore, although not a strict sexual harassment issue, OSHA has recognized that women in certain industries sometimes have unique safety and health issues.  For example, OSHA has a webpage dedicated to women working in construction which can be accessed at https://www.osha.gov/doc/topics/women/index.html.  In addition, an OSHA Advisory Committee published a Study and Recommendation (“Study”) in 1999 called, “Women in the Construction Workplace: Providing Equitable Safety and Health Protection.”  A copy can be accessed at https://www.osha.gov/doc/accsh/haswicformal.html.

The Study is divided into seven areas where distinct safety and health issues for women have been identified in construction:  workplace culture, sanitary facilities, personal protective equipment, ergonomics, reproductive hazards, health and safety training, and injury and illness data and research. The Study concludes with certain recommendations in each of these areas.  Although the Study is now almost twenty years ago, it remains a good reminder that effective safety and health programs may need to consider gender depending on the work environment.

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OSHA’s 2017 Top Ten List

OSHA recently announced its top 10 most cited violations for fiscal year ending 2017. Although the order may change from year to year, it usually reflects the usual suspects of violations and this year’s list is no different. Because the top ten list is so consistent, it remains an excellent starting point for businesses that want to review safety practices and policies and may not be sure where to start. It can also serve as a helpful tool for safety committees to periodically review along with the OSHA logs. The top ten list appears below with some common examples of each violation. (more…)

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An Often Overlooked Tool in Workplace Safety Prevention: The Near-Miss Investigation

construction worker almost falls in open manholeOSHA defines a “near miss” as an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred. Put simply, someone got lucky.

Because there was no damage, these near miss incidents are often ignored or not investigated as thoroughly as a recordable workplace injury or illness on the premise of “no harm, no foul.” However, by doing so, businesses fail to take advantage of a zero cost learning tool that might prevent a serious injury or illness from occurring in the not-so distant future. Indeed, experience has shown there is little question that most loss producing events were preceded by warnings or near miss incidents.

Take the real life example of a business that many years ago installed a number of small venting systems at its operations. A piece of one of the venting systems fell and almost hit an employee which almost certainly would have caused a serious injury and possibly death. The business determined that (essentially) a screw came loose causing the part to fall. It then checked the remaining venting systems and learned that other screws had starting becoming loose as well and was able to resolve the issue before anyone got hurt.  (more…)

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