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Labor groups are opposing a pair of industry motions seeking to intervene in a legal challenge to OSHA's final rule strengthening its silica standards, arguing that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and cement and concrete producers could have filed their own lawsuits and should not be allowed to expand the scope of the litigation underway if they are allowed to intervene on behalf of industry petitioners.

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President Obama has signed the bipartisan Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) overhaul into law, shifting focus to how EPA will implement the extensive new authorities under the law for addressing the safety of chemicals -- with at least one Senate proponent of the law vowing to closely track the agency's implementation.

Small business representatives advising a federal panel weighing possible changes to OSHA's process safety management (PSM) facility safety rule are arguing a major overhaul of the program is unnecessary and could bring adverse consequences, including high costs, burdens to farmers and increased dangers from transporting chemicals long distances.

As EPA prepares to issue a final rule strengthening its facility accident prevention program, producers of small-batch chemicals are defending the safety of their operations in a bid to resist EPA and OSHA suggestions that production of their products is less safe than manufacture of chemicals in large batch continuous processing.

A federal panel weighing how potential changes to OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) facility accident prevention program will affect small businesses is requesting data on the cost of complying with the agency's controversial 2015 policy narrowing a PSM exemption for retailers, suggesting the costs are “modest” given facilities already comply with a similar Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule.

An attorney who has represented major industry groups is urging a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel advising OSHA to limit calls for any additional illness and injury reporting and record-keeping mandates on employers, arguing that current rules adequately identify risks and that federal officials should better use existing data to assess the causes of common injuries and work with employers to prevent those incidents.

OSHA is seeking to bolster its tracking of employee injury and illness reporting to prevent workplace accidents, with steps including the sponsorship of a new National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study on improving surveillance of worker injuries, and possibly looking at ways to increase the role of workers' compensation insurers in accident prevention.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is seeking to intervene in support of a brick industry lawsuit challenging OSHA's recently-issued final rule overhauling its silica standards, arguing that the regulation will impose more than $1 billion in compliance costs each year and affect dozens of industries.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) -- a key figure in crafting the final Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform bill and also a top Democrat on the Senate appropriations panel that oversees EPA -- says the agency's current funding is adequate to start implementing the overhaul, and that it is unlikely to get a budget boost in upcoming spending legislation.

EPA is aligning its hazard classification system for industrial facilities' reporting of hazardous chemicals under the agency's emergency planning rule with categories OSHA adopted in a 2012 update to its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).

Short Takes

OSHA appears on schedule to issue by July 1 an interim final rule boosting maximum penalties for safety and health violations by almost 80 percent to catch up with inflation since 1990, after the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) recently completed review of the rule scheduled to take effect Aug. 1.

The White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) has begun review of the Labor Department's draft interim final rule that will allow OSHA to significantly increase penalties for a host of workplace safety requirements, a measure that Congress required the agency to issue in time for it to take effect Aug. 1.

Producers of cement and concrete block are dropping their stand-alone legal challenge to OSHA's recent overhaul of its silica standards and are instead seeking to intervene in support of the brick industry's suit.

OSHA is seeking public comment on its plan to expand and strengthen its Process Safety Management Program (PSM) facility accident prevention rule, including plans to extend the rule's requirements to the oil and gas industry and require safer technologies analysis in a host of other sectors.