Inside OSHA

February 28, 2020

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Building-industry groups are urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to grant their request to shift pending litigation over OSHA’s beryllium worker exposure rule to the 8th Circuit, arguing that their claims in the suit are substantially similar to other industry challenges to the rule in that circuit.

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The California Chamber of Commerce is warning employers that state regulators are poised to adopt likely expensive and burdensome new worker safety regulations in the coming year, including tighter lead-exposure standards, more stringent wildfire smoke protections, and first-time indoor heat protection measures.

EPA’s draft risk evaluation of the common solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) finds multiple uses present unreasonable risks to exposed workers and consumers under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), even though the agency declined to use a controversial study indicating potential for congenital heart defects that industry has long disputed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rejected a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for details on a hog slaughter facility’s application to use a new USDA inspection program that critics say will hurt workers’ safety, highlighting a lack of public data on the process that is central to a pending worker safety challenge to the program.

EPA’s toxics chief says the agency is grappling with how to obtain more data about chemicals from companies while having limited ability to protect it as confidential business information (CBI) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), an issue industry sources say limits companies’ interest and ability to share studies with EPA.

OSHA has launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to focus its resources on enforcing silica standards for manufacturing, construction and several other industries, while also requiring states to adopt the NEP in order to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in the affected sectors.

Following the lead set by OHSA’s effort to bolster enforcement, the Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA) is ramping up its worker safety compliance efforts, raising the civil penalties that it can impose against mine owners, and touting the fact that compliance outreach efforts have led to a major drop in annual mining fatalities.

In a rare moment of agreement, the chemical industry and environmentalists are generally urging the Trump administration to provide more transparency into the actions of its Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) new chemicals review program, though the two sides are targeting different aspects of the program for increased transparency.

OSHA is fighting a refining company’s legal bid to limit the “substantial continuity” test used to determine a new company owner’s liability for violations of agency policies, urging a federal appeals court to find that five violations by the refiner were “repeat” and subject to stricter penalties rather than stand-alone “serious” violations.

OSHA, EPA and other state and federal agencies are taking steps to protect healthcare and other workers against potential exposure from the deadly coronavirus, including OSHA’s suggestion that some existing standards might apply to preventing occupational exposure and EPA issuing guidance on using disinfectants to help limit the spread of diseases.

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