Inside OSHA

March 21, 2023


A Texas contracting company is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to broadly apply the OSH Act’s “unpreventable employee misconduct” defense, saying an administrative law judge (ALJ) set an unreasonably high bar for invoking it when he upheld an OSHA citation for trench-safety violations against the firm.

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EPA is opening a new public comment period for its proposed rule that would ban ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos, saying industry and environmental groups have submitted a wave of new data on whether a two-year phase-out for chlor-alkali facilities is practicable and protective of workers, and asking stakeholders to weigh in on that evidence.

A federal district judge has rejected Amazon’s challenge to a Washington state policy that required it to abate alleged safety violations at a warehouse in Kent, WA, even as it pursues an administrative challenge to the underlying citation, rejecting the company’s argument that it has been deprived of due process in violation of the Constitution.

OSHA has posted a new regulatory interpretation letter that addresses a host of questions from employers on the Hazard Communication Standard’s (HCS) application to lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, noting several situations when the devices qualify as “consumer products” or “articles” exempt from the rule but highlighting other areas where HCS labels are mandatory.

OSHA has finalized a year-old interim rule that set out procedures for handling whistleblower complaints under the 2019 Taxpayer First Act (TFA) that created anti-retaliation protections for employees who report potential tax fraud and other violations, largely adopting the model it set out in the interim measure.

Federal appellate judges appeared skeptical of claims that OSHA’s safety standard for crane assembly and disassembly should not apply to preparatory steps prior to dismantling the equipment during March 7 oral argument over a 2016 accident where a worker was seriously injured when a crane touched a live power line during that preliminary phase.

OSHA is pushing back against an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that faulted its handling of OSH Act complaints, including claims that officials do not adequately consider testimony from witnesses or complainants in enforcement, saying it is based on a third-party audit that used an unrepresentative sample and misunderstood the agency’s processes.

California OSHA’s (Cal/OSHA) standards board is scheduled to hear debate over whether to amend its workforce safety rules for farming equipment to allow automated tractors and other machines to operate independently in the field, amid pushback from labor and worker-safety groups that say the move would heighten injury and death risks.

The long-delayed challenge to OSHA’s Trump-era rollback of electronic recordkeeping mandates is set to move forward after a federal appeals court lifted its long-standing stay on the suit, backing safety advocates’ argument that the Biden administration’s repeated delays of a rule to reinstate the requirements undermine the rationale for pausing the case.

California OSHA’s (Cal/OSHA) appeals board has issued what the agency is calling a “precedential” decision affirming that provisions of water at outdoor worksites must be “as close as practicable” to the areas where employees are working to encourage frequent consumption, bolstering the state’s heat-danger protections.