Inside OSHA

February 7, 2023

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OSHA has issued citations at three more Amazon warehouses claiming it exposed workers to a high risk of injury and delivered hazard alert letters detailing alleged ergonomic hazards at the facilities, further escalating the agency’s recent series of enforcement actions against the retailer and pressing it to develop a “company-wide strategy” to address them.

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Environmental groups used a flurry of recent meetings with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to renew their calls for a strict rule banning all use of the solvent methylene chloride, highlighting research they say shows both its acute toxicity and ongoing worker deaths even under OSHA’s current safety standards.

Unions, Democratic-led states and pro-regulatory groups are lining up against a contracting firm’s lawsuit claiming OSHA’s authority to craft and enforce safety standards is unconstitutional, calling the company’s claims untethered from the law and warning that granting its request would “hobble” workplace safeguards nationwide.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit is backing OSHA’s narrow reading of a little-used provision in the OSH Act allowing workers to sue the agency when it fails to address an “imminent danger” of workplace harm, agreeing that such suits face the same six-month statute of limitations as federal enforcement action under the law.

Oregon logging and forestry groups will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to let them challenge the state’s workplace safety rules in federal court on the theory that state plans are effectively agents of OSHA rather than their own state governments -- an approach that would open the door to bifurcated litigation on a host of issues.

OSHA is instructing regional enforcement officers to avoid grouping together employers’ alleged health and safety violations and instead prioritize “instance-by-instance” citations that could lead to greatly increased overall penalties, loosening a long-standing policy that said such citations should only come in response to “clear bad faith” by an employer.

With new support from 18 more lawmakers, a group of House and Senate Democrats is renewing its call for EPA to toughen its proposed risk management program (RMP) rule when it finalizes the rule later this year, seeking to shore up the rulemaking just days after one of their key supporters announced plans to leave EPA after failing to win Senate confirmation.

Industry attorneys say an Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) case where the panel underlined the “creating employer” test for liability at multi-employer worksites could also showcase the limits of that doctrine for OSHA enforcement, especially the need to prove that the company had knowledge of the danger it allegedly created.

Officials with the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) say the group is pushing both OSHA and EPA to prioritize enforcing their Risk Management Program (RMP) and process safety management (PSM) standard facility safety policies rather than overhauling and expanding them through pending rules.

OSHA is urging a federal appeals court to reject an employer’s arguments that the OSH Act’s safety standard program is unconstitutional under the “non-delegation” doctrine, arguing that both the law itself and Supreme Court precedent establish well-defined limits on that authority.

 

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