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The federal court ruling blocking OSHA and other agencies from implementing an executive order requiring consideration of safety and other labor law violations in federal procurement decisions could boost lawmakers' efforts to gut the policy, but also suggests the rule is on shaky legal footing and so congressional action may be unnecessary, industry lawyers and other observers say.

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The Texas federal court hearing arguments on whether to block an administration policy requiring agencies to weigh firms' labor law violations in awarding federal contracts has given parties in the suit time to file additional briefs in the case, leaving the door open to a ruling before the policy takes effect Oct. 25.

OSHA has issued recommendations to help employers craft safety and health programs to help reduce worker injuries and illnesses, voluntary approaches that complement OSHA's recently-issued rules seeking to compel safer workplaces by publicizing company injury data or weighing labor violations in federal contracting decisions.

OSHA has again delayed anti-retaliation provisions of its controversial new worker injury and illness reporting rule after a federal court in Texas said it needed additional time and briefings from the parties to weigh the agency's push to limit the scope of a possible future injunction against the rule that industry plaintiffs are seeking.

OSHA has sent for White House review a final rule clarifying that companies have a continuing obligation to record their employees' injuries and illnesses, a change in its record-keeping regulations that industry critics charge would unlawfully circumvent an appellate ruling limiting the statute of limitations, and that will almost certainly draw a legal challenge.

EPA has sent for White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) pre-publication review its final revised facility safety rule, signaling that the agency will likely issue the rule before the end of the administration despite EPA having to overhaul its rule to account for a recent court ruling that vacated OSHA's related policy expanding its related facility worker protection rule.

Builders and security firms have filed an emergency request urging a federal court in Texas to block an administration rule and related OSHA guidance that requires agencies to weigh firms' labor law violations in procurement decisions, saying they are seeking to block the policy before it takes effect later this month.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has settled an enforcement action against a Texas petrochemical facility, bringing steep fines for Clean Air Act violations in a case that began with an OSHA investigation of a fatal accident and highlighting the benefits of an almost year-old DOJ policy aimed at leveraging environmental laws to impose stiffer penalties for workplace violations than OSHA would otherwise be able to win.

A coalition of builders and security firms is suing the Obama administration over its efforts to implement an executive order on weighing labor law violations in procurement decisions, arguing that OSHA guidance and an accompanying federal rule on the policy are unlawful and violate employers' constitutional protections.

A recent federal appeals court ruling striking down an OSHA policy broadening the reach of its process safety management (PSM) rule to retailers will likely force EPA to ease its proposed risk management plan (RMP) rules governing thousands of facilities in the sector because EPA relied on the vacated OSHA policy for upgrading the facilities' regulatory classification.

Short Takes

OSHA chief David Michaels expects the agency's long-delayed final rule seeking to protect workers from slips, trips, and falls at work-sites -- one of the leading causes of workplace injuries -- to be issued before the end of the administration, a schedule much sooner than what industry had anticipated.

OSHA has issued a final rule establishing procedures for investigating complaints of retaliation against whistleblowers in the health care sector, a responsibility the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) delegated to the agency.

A federal district court in Texas has agreed to review federal contractors' request for a quick ruling on an emergency injunction blocking OSHA and other federal agencies from implementing the Obama administration's policy requiring agencies to weigh firms' labor law violations in awarding federal contracts before the policy takes effect later this month.

EPA has forwarded for White House review a final version of its long-awaited rule requiring thousands of manufacturers and other companies to report significant data on nanoscale materials, a measure that could guide future rules aimed at protecting workers and others from adverse exposures to the novel materials.