Inside OSHA

March 4, 2024

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EPA has finalized long-anticipated updates to the Risk Management Program (RMP), with several changes that aim to toughen the proposal issued in 2022 -- including a new mandate that a broader list of facilities now required to perform a safer technology alternatives analysis (STAA) adopt at least one of its recommendations, a win for environmentalists who argued that such upgrades should not be voluntary.

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Industry groups and unions are raising sharply contrasting arguments on OSHA’s pending final rule to allow worker representatives to take part in enforcement “walkaround” inspections even if they are not employed at the site, with employers calling the rule “unconstitutional” and demanding it be scrapped while labor groups are strongly backing it.

Employers’ attorneys are highlighting California OSHA’s (Cal/OSHA) newly released list of its most frequently cited standards in recent enforcement actions -- led by injury and illness prevention plans and outdoor heat exposure programs -- to show how the state agency’s enforcement priorities differ significantly from federal OSHA’s.

California lawmakers have introduced several bills to bolster requirements in the state’s safety standards covering indoor and outdoor heat exposure and crystalline silica exposure in “engineered stone fabrication” businesses and add enforcement heft to the policies, continuing a trend of using legislation to toughen California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) rules.

OSHA’s proposed safety standard for emergency responders includes a call for information on claims that firefighters face health risks from toxic, long-lasting chemicals known as PFAS that are used as water- and oil-proofing agents in their protective gear -- the latest step in a long-running debate on that question.

Two conservative lawyers are expecting the Supreme Court will side with petitioners and expand the six-year statute of limitations to bring lawsuits challenging OSHA and other federal agencies’ actions under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) after the court heard oral arguments this week in a high-profile administrative law case.

Environmentalists are renewing their calls for EPA to “ban” vinyl chloride, one of five substances the agency is considering prioritizing for risk evaluation under TSCA, saying such a rule is needed to protect workers who use either the cancer-causing chemical or plastics made from it -- including the ubiquitous polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Supreme Court justices appeared to offer little clarity during Feb. 20 oral arguments on how they will decide when the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) six-year statute of limitations starts to run, appearing torn between concern over fairness to regulated parties and fear of reopening decades-old policies from OSHA and other agencies.

California OSHA’s (Cal/OSHA) standards board has approved tough new worker-safety rules for lead exposure in the construction and general industry sectors to take effect next year, codifying a proposal that had already been held up as a potential model for other states and federal OSHA, which is weighing updates to its own lead policies.

Republicans on the House Workforce Committee are renewing their attacks on OSHA’s rulemaking to revive an Obama-era policy allowing worker representatives to take part in enforcement “walkaround” inspections even if they are not employed at the site, charging that the rule “interferes in labor-management relations” as the White House has begun reviewing the final policy.

 

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