Inside OSHA

August 9, 2022

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The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has provisionally selected the panel that will peer review the Biden administration’s draft assessment of the risks of workplace and other exposures to formaldehyde, despite calls from GOP lawmakers who had sought additional scrutiny on whether the panel selection process and staff are impartial.

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OSHA is seeking nominees to fill four seats on its National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) that are slated to become vacant in January, just as the panel is ramping up its work to provide the agency with advice on a heat danger standard long sought by labor advocates and Democrats.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is praising a recent set of draft Significant New Use Rules (SNURs) that they say appears to include EPA’s first-ever use of worker exposure protection levels, known as New Chemical Exposure Limits (NCEL), in TSCA regulations governing specific new chemical uses.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) has upheld a General Duty Clause citation that OSHA filed against a Pennsylvania construction firm in the wake of a fatal equipment collapse, holding that the citation for failure to perform required maintenance is valid regardless of whether that failure caused the accident.

Former EPA chemicals chief Steve Owens used his first public meeting as acting chief of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) to announce a slate of transparency initiatives for the independent agency, including publication of accidental-release reporting data it has been gathering since 2020.

California OSHA’s (Cal/OSHA) standards board plans to address concerns among board members, employers and others about “ambiguous” definitions in the agency’s draft long-term COVID-19 worker-safety regulation -- primarily what will be considered a “close contact” in “shared indoor airspace” -- even after officials released new guidance on the subject.

Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee are proposing a $68 million fiscal year 2023 funding increase for OSHA in hopes of restarting long-stalled talks with the GOP on spending legislation, just as the chamber’s leaders are embracing a deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on a reconciliation bill that appears to exclude long-sought boosts to OSH Act penalties.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced it is directly investigating workplace safety concerns and “related issues” at multiple Amazon warehouses, in the wake of a worker death at one of the company’s New Jersey facilities -- a step one Democratic lawmaker says is “exceptionally rare” and justifies a strict OSHA response as well.

A Texas construction firm is suing over OSHA’s citation for a 2016 accident where a worker was seriously injured when a crane touched a live power line during disassembly, after the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) twice rejected the employer’s defenses -- including that the crane safety standard should not apply.

OSHA chief Doug Parker told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a sworn July 25 declaration that his agency is “on track” to complete a long-term COVID-19 standard for healthcare workers by September or October, despite Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s recent comments that the rule could take as long as five months.

 

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