Inside OSHA

January 20, 2020

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Litigation filed by food workers unions over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) revised swine slaughter facility inspection rule is testing whether the department has a duty to protect workers, with the challengers saying the rule is unlawful because it does not offer such protections while USDA says it is not subject to such a mandate.

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The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s (CSB) proposed accidental chemical release rule is drawing competing criticisms, with environmentalists and other advocacy groups saying it weakens reporting mandates to the point of being “useless” while industry entities claim it risks subjecting companies to “inappropriate enforcement.”

The United Steelworkers (USW) is joining an environmental coalition in challenging EPA’s rollback of the Obama-era chemical facility safety rule, contending the agency “capitulated to industry demands” by eliminating key provisions in the rule that would prevent foreseeable catastrophic accidents.

As it awaits a ruling on the legality of OSHA’s rule rolling back Obama-era recordkeeping and reporting mandates, consumer group Public Citizen is defending its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit seeking data OSHA collected in 2017 under the retained portion of the rule.

Senators by unanimous consent on Jan. 9 approved the nominations of Cynthia Atwood and Amanda Laihow as members of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), clearing the path for the panel to resume its long-stalled work on reviewing a host of contested OSHA workplace citations and penalties.

The Senate has confirmed along party lines Paul Ray, the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the White House Office of Information & Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) and currently its acting head, permanently installing him as the top rule reviewer over the objections of worker safety advocacy groups, environmentalists, and others.

Citing recent OSHA advice, a management-side attorney is urging employers to assess whether their workers face potential hazards from the widespread use of headphones to listen to music even though there is no OSHA standard prohibiting it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has rejected the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) long-running challenge aiming to limit or overturn the Congressional Review Act (CWA), finding Congress has broad discretion to scrap OSHA and other agencies’ rules with a streamlined voting process that limits judicial review.

EPA has released its updated “working approach” for determining whether new chemical applications meet the Toxic Substances Control Act’s (TSCA) “unreasonable risk” standard, retaining controversial provisions over its use of interim enforcement orders and worker protections even as it sought to provide explanations absent from an earlier version.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP), which advocates for stronger worker safety measures, says that OSHA’s new weighting system for measuring enforcement inaccurately inflates inspection data by allowing the agency to count “quick” inspections and not resource-intensive investigations that might better protect workers.

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