Strategic Considerations When Producing Documents During An OSHA Inspection

During an OSHA inspection, the compliance officer will most likely request certain documents such as the manufacturer’s manual, safety and health policies, internal or external safety and health audits, videotapes, minutes from safety meetings, trade association data, employee complaints, etc. Initially, the employer representative should ensure that all document requests are memorialized in writing so there is no confusion as to what is requested. When responding to these document requests, employers need to be mindful of potential privileges, e.g., attorney-client privilege covering an internal safety audit so that they are not waived unintentionally. Employers also need to be vigilant in protecting any documents containing trade secrets, commercially sensitive or other confidential financial information.

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OSHA Releases Updated Agenda For Rulemaking

On June 21, 2022, the Department of Labor released the Spring 2022 rulemaking agenda. The dates listed on the schedule are non-binding but reflect priority issues for OSHA.

The newly published agenda makes clear that the much-anticipated heat illness rules remain at the “pre-rule” stage, and it is unclear when the agency will publish proposed rules related to the same. Similarly, rules related to the prevention of workplace violence in health care and social assistance remain delayed, with the current schedule showing a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review in September 2022.

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Is a General Contractor Liable for Safety Violations of its Subcontractors under OSHA?

The short answer is the proverbial attorney response, “it depends.” Under OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy, an employer may be held responsible for the violations of other employers where it could reasonably be expected to prevent or detect and abate the violations due to its supervisory authority and control over the worksite. In Secretary of Labor v. Summit Contracting Group, OSHRC Docket No. 18-1451 (May 10, 2022), the two-member Commission determined that the 11th Circuit has never explicitly adopted or rejected the multi-employer doctrine, and thus applied Commission precedent to the circumstances of the case. After doing so, the Commission ultimately reversed the administrative law judge’s decision and vacated a fall protection citation issued against a general contractor for the failure of its subcontractor’s employees to use fall protection.

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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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