Inside OSHA

December 1, 2023


California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) staff are developing stakeholder reports that will aim to justify their pending proposal to strengthen worker-safety rules for lead exposure in the construction and general industry sectors, including a claim that the tighter requirements would avoid 31 deaths and hundreds of job-related illnesses over 10 years.

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An industry attorney is highlighting novel language in EPA’s proposed TSCA rule for the solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) that requires companies to limit worker exposures only “to the extent possible” as evidence that its occupational exposure standard is unworkably strict, underlining likely objections to the policy from trade groups and employers.

OSHA is urging a federal district court to reject any link between South Carolina’s latest suit over the federal mandate for states to match their annual penalty increases to federal OSH Act penalties and a pending Supreme Court case that could greatly extend the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) statute of limitations for rule challenges.

California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) is proposing to exempt short-term “incidental” exposures from its proposed first-time employee-safety rules for heat illness prevention at indoor worksites, but employer groups that sought the change are now calling on the state to expand it further, saying the current version is highly limited and fails to address their concerns.

The Labor Department (DOL) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has again identified worker safety issues among the top “management challenges” facing the department in its annual report on those high-priority issues, and is recommending a slew of new actions at both OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Statistics showing an increase in workplace deaths for miners in fiscal year 2023 are sparking concern from industry lawyers over how the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will respond, though one attorney says it is uncertain that the agency has funds and resources for new training or enforcement initiatives.

The Supreme Court will hear oral argument on Jan. 17 in a pair of linked suits that could overturn or sharply limit the long-standing Chevron doctrine that gives deference to OSHA and other agencies on their “reasonable” interpretations of ambiguous statutory text.

Unions and their allies, including elected Democrats, are supporting OSHA’s proposal to allow compliance officers inspecting a workplace to bring worker representatives on walkarounds even if they are not affiliated with that employer, arguing that the policy will bolster workers’ rights while seeking relatively minor changes to the agency’s text.

The House has overwhelmingly approved a Republican-backed bill extending funding for several agencies including OSHA through Feb. 2, but the chamber adjourned Nov. 15 for the Thanksgiving holiday without voting on a full-year funding bill for the Labor Department (DOL) in a sign that lawmakers are still struggling with fiscal year 2024 appropriations.

South Carolina is seeking to stay its latest challenge to OSHA’s mandate for states to match annual increases to federal minimum and maximum OSH Act penalties, citing a pending Supreme Court case that it says could loosen the six-year statute of limitations for suing over federal agency action that OSHA has argued is fatal to the current suit.