Inside OSHA

December 5, 2019


New OSHA data shows a slight uptick in total inspections in fiscal year 2019, but a former top Obama official is faulting the agency for declining inspection levels compared to the end of the previous administration, saying that even though inspections rose to 33,401 compared to 32,023 in FY18, overall inspection levels have plunged during the Trump administration.

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Major industry organizations are renewing their concerns over OSHA’s proposal to revise the standards for occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds in the shipyard and construction sectors, with the groups warning that the plan might be unlawful -- a hint of possible legal challenges if OSHA finalizes the plan.

As EPA’s ban on consumer uses of paint strippers containing methylene chloride (MC) takes effect, former officials are urging the agency to quickly adopt a host of emergency limits on commercial and other uses of the substance, citing a recent draft assessment that found they pose “unreasonable risks” to workers and others that must quickly be addressed.

OSHA has slowed plans to advance key rules it is developing, including measures addressing significant hazards for emergency response workers and a draft health care workplace violence standard, according to its fall update to its Unified Agenda, a move that is sparking criticism from safety advocates.

Appellate judges are suggesting they may overturn a lower court ruling that limited the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s (CSB) ability, as part of an accident investigation, to subpoena documents to study risks of “potential” releases of hazardous chemicals into the environment.

Supporters of legislation banning the use and importation of asbestos under EPA’s toxics authority are gearing up to advance the bill in the Senate after the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted overwhelmingly Nov. 19 to approve a bipartisan compromise, which gives the chlor-alkali industry as much as 10 years to phase-in the ban.

The Trump administration has issued a final rule that rolls back Obama-era chemical facility safety requirements even as officials previewed its legal defenses against all but certain challenges from Democratic states and environmentalists who had threatened to sue over the 2018 proposal that the agency largely codified.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) plans a “hard” push next year to advance in the Senate just-passed House legislation that would force OSHA to issue workplace violence standards for the healthcare and social service sectors, saying the more than 30 Republicans backing the House bill suggest it could attract similar bipartisan support in the Senate.

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is criticizing the Defense Department’s (DOD) approach for developing a new occupational exposure limit (OEL) for the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), including DOD’s decision to exclude a controversial study EPA has used to set TCE risk values to protect against fetal heart malformations.

The House appears poised to approve legislation that would force OSHA to quickly issue workplace violence standards for the healthcare and social service sectors, with Democratic and GOP lawmakers discussing potential compromises to bolster the bill’s support, even as the measure faces a White House veto threat.