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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is urging EPA to tighten its proposed rule overhauling the agency's industrial facility accident prevention program by requiring that certain facilities use inherently safer technologies (IST) such as alternative chemicals or process changes, arguing that the rule as drafted fails to adequately improve safety.

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Industry officials have updated a 1975 study that forms the basis of OSHA and EPA risk values to protect workers and others from cancer as a result of inhaling hexavalent chromium (Cr6), finding that the new data shows significantly lower risks than the earlier version.

EPA has extended by one month -- from Sept. 26 to Oct. 26 -- the comment deadline on its proposed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) regulation to align its rules on significant new uses of chemicals with OSHA standards, after industry stakeholders asked for more time to provide their input.

Striking a blow to the Obama administration's efforts to bolster facility safety, a federal appeals court has vacated OSHA's controversial 2015 policy narrowing the exemption from its process safety management (PSM) standard for retailers, finding the agency unlawfully issued the memo expanding the reach of its facility worker protection rule without public input.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel preparing advice on how OSHA should bolster recordkeeping and reporting requirements for employee illnesses and injuries is wrestling with what factors to include in any broader program, including expanded considerations of the cost of injuries and illnesses, worker demographics and work conditions, such as harmful exposures.

EPA's recent assessment of the human health risks of ammonia, a substance used to produce fertilizer, detergent and other products, adopts a risk value that is far more stringent than limits that OSHA and NIOSH have published to protect workers and which industry urged EPA to adopt though it is slightly weaker than EPA's 1991 standard.

With briefing now completed, a federal court in Georgia is slated to decide a potentially landmark case that could broadly limit OSHA's facility inspection authority and sectoral emphasis programs, with the company calling OSHA's targeting of industry sectors a dragnet similar to racial profiling while the agency says existing precedent allows it to prioritize inspections.

In one of three rare rules that EPA is drafting under its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 6 authorities, the agency is weighing whether to ban the use of the controversial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) when used as a degreaser to clean various parts and components, or whether additional restrictions on such operations are sufficient to protect workers.

A coalition of fuel, manufacturing and other industry sectors is arguing that OSHA is using a worker injury reporting rule to claim “virtually unlimited authority” to craft a new enforceable process for the rule, urging a federal district court to find that the agency failed to justify its assertion of power and seeking to block enforcement of the rule.

An attorney who has pushed for stronger whistleblower protection laws is backing OSHA's recently-issued guidance for agency reviews of settlements between whistleblowers and employers, saying the updated criteria will help guard against contractual restrictions that could otherwise prevent future reporting of workplace violations.

Short Takes

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) in a new report is calling for improved communication between facilities, water utilities, and public health officials, arguing that a West Virginia company and state authorities failed to adequately communicate risks of a 2012 chemical release that contaminated drinking water.

Agricultural retailers, farm groups and one of their congressional supporters are welcoming a recent appeals court ruling striking down OSHA's July 2015 policy subjecting more retailers to the agency's facility safety rules, arguing the decision will hold OSHA to its authorizing statute, and that the policy was an inappropriate response to a facility disaster.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is charging that the pace of costly OSHA and other labor rules issued in the final months of the Obama administration vastly exceeds that of the three preceding two-term presidents, suggesting that industry and other critics will seek to roll back the rules in the next administration regardless of who is president.

OSHA has issued a final rule setting procedures for handling complaints of retaliation against whistleblowers under the Seaman's Protection Act (SPA), one of a series of rules the agency is issuing to bolster its oversight of whistleblowers under a host of federal statutes.