About a year ago, I wrote a column for the Daily Journal of Commerce about effective COVID-19 safety policies and what contractors can do to maximize job site safety to comply with developing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 safety standards and guidelines. In the interim,
On November 6, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OR-OSHA”) published final temporary rules for workplace safety protections specific to COVID-19. Our alert about the new rules is available here.
Among other requirements, the new rules require employers to adopt a COVID-19 Infection Notification policy for notifying exposed and affected employees of…
OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires an employer to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. In the current pandemic, COVID-19 qualifies and contractors should draft a COVID-19 policy for their worksites implementing the latest guidance in order to minimize the hazard and protect employees.
In addition to OSHA’s COVID-19 standards, on April 21, 2020, OSHA published a list of tips that can help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the construction industry. Some of those tips include:
- Allowing workers to wear masks over their noses and mouths to prevent them from spreading the virus.
- Training workers on how to properly wear and use protective clothing and equipment.
- Keeping in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible and limiting the number of workers in attendance.
- Encouraging workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Maintaining physical distance (at least six feet when possible) on the job site and inside work trailers.
- Encouraging frequent handwashing or sanitizing.
The Washington Department of Labor & Industries, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, is considering changes to Washington’s fall protection regulations. These are rules intended to protect construction workers from injury caused by falls on a jobsite. The Division has been interested in this topic since 2013, when the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration…
Construction projects, both big and small, pose a host of safety risks and challenges and, as a result, are subject to a number of regulations designed to limit the probability and severity of jobsite accidents. In my latest article for the Daily Journal of Commerce, I discuss common violations, some recent regulatory changes, best…
On March 24, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued its final rule related to admissible exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The new rule, which dramatically reduces the permissible exposure limit (“PEL”) of respirable crystalline silica from 250 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (an…
OSHA compliance recently became harder and costlier, and may continue to do so, thanks to several developments at the federal and state level. (Click here for a prior post on OSHA reform.)
You may go to prison if you discipline or terminate an employee who might be worried about an unsafe working condition—even though your employee had not bothered to tell you about his concern. That is what the current version of the Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 (H.R. 5663) provides.
The Byrd Act, not yet law, would prohibit firing or discriminating against an employee who refuses to perform the his duties if he “has a reasonable apprehension that performing such duties would result in serious injury to, or serious impairment of the health of, the employee or other employees.” Employers should wonder how they will know whether their employees have “reasonable apprehensions”—the Act does not require the employee to voice his apprehension for this provision to protect him from discrimination for failing to do his work. If the Act becomes law, an employer who fires an employee because that employee is not performing may find itself faced with a complaint.
The Byrd Act has not moved since July 29, 2010, when it was placed on the Union Calendar. Depending on the results of the recent elections, it may not move at all.
If your business has an effective noise protection program in place, that may not protect you from OSHA penalties.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently proposed adopting a new interpretation of the word “feasible” as it is used in certain sections of the General Industry and Construction Occupational Noise Exposure standards (sections 1910.95(b)(1) and 1926.52(b)).
Feasible, which currently means that a measure is both capable of being done and that the costs of implementing the measure are less than the cost of an effective hearing conservation program, would only mean capable of being done. If you have avoided certain measures because they were not economically feasible, and if OSHA determines that they were capable of being done, your program will not be in compliance.
For example, if your employees are exposed to a loud workplace but you require them to wear effective ear protection—and they do—this will not be good enough. If OSHA decides that redesigning your workplace with expensive sound-absorbing baffles is capable of being done, you have to do it. Even if it would be no more effective than your current program.
Instead of allowing a cost-benefit analysis, the Administration would consider administrative or engineering controls economically feasible when the cost of implementing those controls will “not threaten the employer’s ability to remain in business.” So, if OSHA decides those sound-absorbing baffles won’t threaten your ability to remain in business, they are economically feasible. Oddly, though the Administration argues that its proposal restores the “plain meaning” of feasible to its enforcement policies by eliminating cost-benefit analyses, it did not state how it derived its proposed economic viability standard from that plain meaning.…
Contributor: Louis A. Ferreira
Congress has proposed legislation that would amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to increase both civil and criminal penalties, expand coverage, and create new obligations for employers. Congress has not acted recently on the bill, named the “Protecting America’s Workers Act," but employers should expect action sometime in the new year.
Willful violations of OSHA that result in the death of a worker would be a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, while willful violations resulting in serious bodily injury would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Currently, the criminal penalty for a willful violations resulting in death is imprisonment for 1 year. There is no criminal penalty under the existing act for a serious bodily injury resulting from a willful violation. In addition, the maximum civil penalties in all OSHA violation categories would increase, and would be adjusted periodically according to the Consumer Price Index.
Oregon-OSHA administers its own regulations for most employers in the state but adopts standards and penalties at least as stringent as federal OSHA. In other words, if federal OSHA standards are changed, these impacts will be enforced in Oregon in short order. Employers should be concerned about the scope of these changes because like most legislation, the devil is in the details of how the law is changed. For instance, a willful violation of an OSHA standard does not necessarily require an intentional decision to violate the regulation. A willful violation is defined to exist where an employer or supervisor “recklessly” disregards the requirements of a regulation. Knowledge of the regulation is usually not required it the employer or supervisor should have known of the regulation or standard.
Additionally, employers would be prohibited from
- adopting or implementing policies or practices that discourage reporting work-related injuries or illnesses, or that discriminate or provide adverse action against any employee reporting such injury or illness; and
- reducing wages or employee benefits while employees participate in or aid workplace inspections
Are Oregon contractors liable on a per-employee basis for failing to comply with OSHA personal protective equipment (PPE) and training requirements? Under a new administrative order issued by Oregon OSHA, the answer is yes.
Under this order, Oregon OSHA adopted a federal OSHA rule clarifying that employers are liable for violations on a per-employee…