By July 1, 2021 No Comments

Unions seek appeals court review of OSHA virus standard

The AFL-CIO two individual unions are asking federal appeals courts to review OSHA’s new Covid-19 emergency temporary standard for the health-care industry.

The AFL-CIO and United Food and Commercial Workers filed a joint petition June 24 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, complaining the OSHA measure was drawn too narrowly.

“The ETS fails to protect employees outside the healthcare industry who face a similar grave danger from occupational exposure to COVID-19,” according to the filing.

National Nurses United also filed a petition for review, but with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. It didn’t specify what concerns the union has with the standard. The union declined to explain its position when asked, but said in a statement issued through a spokesperson: “We support every effort to expand and improve the coverage of the ETS.”

Leaders of the AFL-CIO and UFCW have been critical of the Biden administration’s OSHA for limiting the standard to health care when there have been high Covid-19 case counts among other workers, including those in the meatpacking, transportation, warehousing, and service industries.

The standard took effect June 21 and the first compliance deadline for employers is July 6.

OSHA plans to tackle infectious disease standard in 2022

OSHA’s stalled infectious disease standard could get a boost next year with the agency seeking to increase its budget for rulemaking by more than 50%, according to Business Insurance.

OSHA’s 2020 and 2021 budgets called for the agency to spend $18 million for safety and health standards and in 2022 it is asking for $28.5 million to help “restore OSHA’s rulemaking and guidance capacity” with a focus on issues including workplace violence and infectious diseases.

Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, Boston-based co-executive director for the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health said OSHA’s move to create an infectious disease standard, or standards as the agency could move forward with one for health care workers and another for all other workers, would not happen fast enough to protect workers in the ongoing COVID-9 pandemic.

John Ho, Norwalk, Connecticut-based labor and employment attorney and chair of OSHA practice at Cozen O’Connor, said “If OSHA wants to put together an infectious disease standard … I think the agency has a right to do that within the rulemaking process,” which includes periods for public input, he said. “It’s not rushed and you give stakeholders an opportunity to comment; that’s the way it should normally go.”

OSHA announces spring 2021 reg agenda

On 11 June, The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), published its semiannual regulatory agenda for Spring 2021 for the U.S. Department of Labor.  Helen Cleary, director of the Phylmar Regulatory Roundtable (PRR), offers the following summary of OSHA plans.

OSHA will issue Final Rules for the following:

  • Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under the Taxpayer First Act
  • Procedures for Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under the Whistleblower Protection Statutes
  • Discrimination Against Employees Exercising Rights Under the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints under the Taxpayer First Act;
  • Subpart U–Emergency Temporary Standard–COVID-19
  • Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under the Anti-Money Laundering Act
  • Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints under the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act

OSHA also expects to issue Notices of Proposed Rulemaking for: 

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard
  • Communication Tower Safety
  • Update to the Hazard Communication Standard
  • Lock-Out/Tag-Out Update
  • Tree Care Standard
  • Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica; Revisions to Table 1 in the Standard for Construction
  • Welding in Construction Confined Spaces
  • Personal Protective Equipment in Construction
  • Powered Industrial Trucks Design Standard Update
  • Walking Working Surfaces
  • Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica: Revisions to Medical Surveillance Provisions for Medical Removal Protection
  • Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses: OSHA

OSHA announced rulemaking action in the Pre-Rule Stage for: 

  • Process Safety Management and Prevention of Major Chemical Accidents
  • Emergency Response
  • Mechanical Power Presses Update
  • Prevention of Workplace Violence in Health Care and Social Assistance
  • Blood Lead Level for Medical Removal
  • Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings

Finally, Long-Term Actions include: Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements–Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Column, Drug Testing Program and Safety Incentives Rule, and Powered Industrial Trucks.  Cleary says PRR members will be particularly interested in the first two of the long-term actions.

Recruiting a hurdle to Biden’s goal of doubling OSHA inspectors

President Joe Biden’s goal of doubling OSHA’s inspection force to roughly 1,500 by 2024 faces daunting challenges—from recruiting and training people with the needed skills to convincing lawmakers to pay for the new positions, according to Bloomberg Law.

The administration’s plans to increase inspectors is driven by frustration with OSHA’s inability to respond to an overwhelming number of worker complaints during the pandemic.

OSHA will focus on hiring multilingual staff with an array of technical skills and understanding of workplace health and safety issues.

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