Inside OSHA

January 15, 2021


Attorneys representing employers say President-elect Joe Biden could return Obama-era OSHA chief David Michaels to the agency on a short-term basis to lead its COVID-19 response, including possible development of an emergency temporary standard (ETS), ahead of Biden nominating a permanent OSHA secretary.

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OSHA is agreeing to strengthen its involvement in EPA’s program for reviewing new chemicals’ potential hazards before they enter the marketplace, but the new memorandum of understanding (MOU) seems to exclude evaluations of existing chemicals even though EPA has faced calls to boost its consideration of worker safety in its risk reviews.

A federal district judge has rejected a lawsuit by public health groups and Democratic states aimed at reversing OSHA’s rollback of an Obama-era rule setting electronic reporting and recordkeeping mandates for employers, ruling that the reversal was within regulators’ discretion and that the groups lacked standing to sue.

A federal appellate court is slated to hear arguments in March in the long-running suits brought by industry, labor and environmental groups seeking to reverse EPA’s first-time TSCA rule banning consumer uses of paint strippers containing methylene chloride, marking an early legal marker for how the Biden administration may address such rules.

Local unions are welcoming President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary, praising Walsh both for his overall stance on worker safety and his administration’s imposition of comprehensive workplace protections from COVID-19 -- previewing a top priority for the Biden OSHA.

President-elect Joe Biden has selected Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D), a former president of the city’s building union, as his nominee for Secretary of Labor, following through on campaign promises to give unions a strong voice in labor policy and putting Walsh in charge of an expected push to ramp up OSHA’s enforcement efforts.

A coalition of agriculture industry groups is suing the California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) in a bid to overturn the state’s recently adopted COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) for workplace safety, charging the new rules exceed the agency’s authority and threaten to cripple food production and distribution chains.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) has issued a new decision raising the bar for OSHA to enforce its rule that requires safe storage of material in tiers to prevent it from falling on workers, the latest in a series of decisions limiting use of existing standards on the eve of the Biden administration.

As the average age of workers rises due to delayed retirements, the economic recession and other factors, employers’ attorneys are warning companies that OSHA could step up enforcement related to ergonomics hazards that can pose a greater risk to older workers even though the agency lacks an explicit ergonomics standard.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) is pushing EPA to tighten its assessment of workplace risks from pigment violet 29 (PV29), arguing that the agency’s draft evaluation of the chemical underestimates the dangers of worker exposures, especially amid a respirator shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.