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As Obama administration officials left office, they asked federal courts in Texas and Washington, DC, to dismiss separate suits challenging OSHA rules setting new silica standards and anti-retaliation requirements ahead of the incoming Trump administration, which is expected to seek to roll the measures back.

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Nanomaterial producers are eyeing a strategy for challenging EPA's reporting rule that is expected to inform future EPA and OSHA policies governing their products, claiming that EPA failed to seek public input on certain information in the final rule, and that the Trump administration could scale it back if a federal court agrees that the new data should have been issued for comment.

OSHA has bolstered language in a recently-issued guide for protecting whistleblowers from employer retaliation after OSHA advisors faulted the agency's 2015 draft version, putting greater emphasis on assertions that company programs for preventing retaliation against employees who raise safety concerns benefit employers.

A recent federal appeals court decision backing industry arguments that OSHA is limited to a six-month statute of limitations for issuing certain citations could prompt EPA to take on a greater role in enforcing industrial facility process safety, usurping OSHA's traditional lead role in such enforcement and increasing fines, an industry attorney says.

Industry attorneys expect that the Trump administration will likely scale back many Obama-era OSHA policies and focus on compliance assistance rather than the current “all-out” focus on enforcement, but they suggest a wholesale rollback of regulation is neither likely nor ideal for companies, which need some consistency for planning.

The Obama administration has issued a long-awaited rule requiring manufacturers and processors of certain nanomaterials to report some data on the materials to the government, reporting that is expected to yield data to inform future regulatory and other policies of OSHA, EPA and other agencies.

OSHA has granted a petition from nursing and other labor groups seeking a federal standard for preventing workplace violence in the healthcare and social service sectors, and agency officials are expressing optimism that recent progress toward a standard will likely continue into the Trump administration.

Groups representing various industries are weighing options for reversing EPA's recent revisions to its Risk Management Program (RMP) facility safety rule, including a possible push for lawmakers to undo the changes through a Congressional Review Act (CRA) disapproval resolution or through a legal challenge to the final rule.

OSHA has issued a final rule strengthening limits for workers' exposure to beryllium and expanding proposed protections for general industry to also cover the shipyard and construction sectors as consumer and health advocates requested, though the final rule also includes a new provision to give employers flexibility in assessing exposures.

Environmental justice advocates are pushing back against expectations that the incoming Trump administration will seek to roll back EPA's recently-announced final rule overhauling the agency's facility safety program with new hazard analysis and auditing requirements, but acknowledge that the rule's industry opponents have various tools to undercut it.

Short Takes

A host of industry groups have launched a broad new legal challenge in a federal court in Oklahoma to OSHA's injury and illness reporting rule just weeks after a federal court in Texas rejected a narrower attempt to stay the rule's implementation.

OSHA is appealing a federal court ruling that it unlawfully targeted a poultry processing plant for an expanded inspection under a regional enforcement program (REP), teeing up a review that could broaden a precedent on whether the agency may expand inspections beyond reported incidents, a major component of OSHA enforcement programs.

White House officials have completed review of OSHA's final rule seeking to limit workers' exposure to beryllium and strengthening the agency's existing permissible exposure limit (PEL) for the substance, signaling the agency will soon release the rule, which is based on data from an unusual labor-industry collaboration.

Outgoing leaders of the Obama Labor Department (DOL) are citing an increase in occupational fatalities in 2015 -- to the highest level since 2008 -- in urging employers to provide safe workplaces, arguing that protecting workers is a moral imperative, and that most workplace deaths are preventable.