Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: OSHA Removes Recently Published FAQs on Reporting Hospitalizations and Fatalities Due to COVID-19

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has withdrawn from its website—without public explanation—a controversial interpretation of its requirement to report in-patient hospitalizations of employees who contracted work-related cases of COVID-19.

OSHA Publishes New FAQs on Reporting Hospitalizations and Fatalities Due to COVID-19

On July 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a new interpretation of the hospitalization reporting requirement of 29 C.F.R. § 1904.39(b)(6), one that states that employers “must report the hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been hospitalized and that the reason for hospitalization was COVID-19.”

Judge Finds No Scientific Basis for NWS Heat Index Chart Used by OSHA in Heat Stress Cases

An administrative law judge of the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission held this week that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had failed to show that a document the agency used to prosecute employers in heat stress cases—the National Weather Service’s heat index chart—has a scientific basis.

OSHA Issues Updated COVID-19 Guidance for Construction Industry Employers

On May 27, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance for employers performing construction work of all types. The agency’s guidance is not a standard or regulation, so it is not legally binding. Nonetheless, construction industry employers may want to consider OSHA’s recommendations when developing and updating their workplace safety and health plans, for two reasons. First, the guidance indicates which measures OSHA might allege are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause, just as it has done with heat stress, workplace violence, and other hazards for which it has no specific standard. Second, the document may indicate what employees may expect their employers to do as more people get back to work.

What Six-Foot Rule? OSHA Construction Fall Standard Forces the OSH Review Commission to State It Does Not Exist

The debate has raged for years. Is there a six-foot rule triggering fall protection requirements when an employee is within six feet of an unprotected edge? A construction fall protection standard adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not expressly state there is such a six-foot rule, but many employers, industry safety experts, and even some OSHA inspectors have followed one as a rule of thumb.

OSHA Issues Interim Enforcement Guidance on the Meaning of “Work Related” for Recording Cases of COVID-19

On April 10, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim enforcement guidance for recording cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, affecting what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. The guidance clarifies which cases of COVID-19 are considered “work-related” under 29 C.F.R. § 1904, which means it also affects employer obligations for cases that must be reported to OSHA (e.g., in-patient hospitalizations).

OSHA Relaxes Enforcement to Permit Use of N95s Certified in Certain Countries

After relaxing enforcement on the use of expired N95 respirators and on their extended use and reuse, late on April 3, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Enforcement Guidance for Use of Respiratory Protection Equipment Certified under Standards of Other Countries or Jurisdictions During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. The new guidance supplements, but does not replace, previous guidance.

Coronavirus Watch: What Are Employers’ Legal Responsibilities for the Safety of an Employee’s Home Workplace?

An employer who requires or permits employees to work from their homes has limited responsibilities for the safety and health of the employee’s working conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sharply distinguishes between home offices and other home workplaces, such as home manufacturing facilities in which, for example, employees assemble electronic parts.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: D.C. Circuit Holds Employer That Failed to Implement Its Own Safety Program Violated the General Duty Clause

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently issued a decision that should be of concern to every employer and safety professional. The case involved an employer that had ambitious but unimplemented requirements in its written safety procedures—a lack of implementation that in large part caused the employer to be found guilty of a violation of the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Supreme Court Generally Disapproves of a Discovery-Rule Exception to Federal Statutes of Limitations

Not so long ago, federal courts began to hold that a federal statute of limitations did not begin to run until the plaintiff knew or reasonably should have known of his or her claim.  This is commonly called the “discovery rule.”  The rule originated in state court tort cases involving surgical implements left in patients who did not discover their surgeons’ negligence until long after the limitations period had run.

More Trouble for Chevron Deference

Chevron deference is increasingly coming under fire from the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. That came through loud and clear in Pereira v. Sessions, issued on June 21, 2018. Not only did the approach of the majority opinion appear to be at odds with the Court’s past approach to Chevron deference, but Justice Kennedy stated in a concurring opinion that “it seems necessary and appropriate to reconsider . . . the premises that underlie Chevron and how courts have implemented that decision.” Justice Alito asserted in dissent that “the Court, for whatever reason, is simply ignoring Chevron.”

Process Safety Management, Union Style

If you’ve ever wondered what a process safety standard drafted by a union would look like, the State of Washington’s recent draft Process Safety Requirements for Petroleum Refineries provides a glimpse. Using California’s 2017 Process Safety Management for Petroleum Refineries as its baseline, Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries released a draft of a process safety management standard that would apply to the state’s 5 petroleum refineries.

D.C. Circuit Rejects All Industry Challenges to OSHA’s New Silica Standards

On Friday, December 22, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected all of American industry’s many challenges to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new silica dust standard, 29 C.F.R. §§ 1910.1053 and 1926.1153—one of the key achievements of OSHA under the Obama administration. The court remanded the standard for OSHA to further explain or reconsider why it did not adopt medical removal protection.