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Earlier this month, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published information on novel coronavirus (COVID-19) hazard recognition, medical information, potentially applicable OSHA standards, control and prevention, and additional resources. The guidance notes that without sustained human-to-human transmission, most U.S. workers remain at low risk of exposure and infection. However, OSHA has identified commonsense practices for all workers and employers to help prevent worker exposure to COVID-19, including proper handwashing with the use of an alcohol-based rub (hand sanitizer). OSHA also cautions workers to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands and to avoid close contact with sick people. The guidance lists additional precautions for workers involved in health care, deathcare, laboratories, airline operations, border protection, and solid waste and wastewater management. OSHA’s guidance is available here.
Continue Reading OSHA and Cal/OSHA issue coronavirus guidance

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I or Department) recently released two documents related to its development of a refinery-specific process safety management (PSM) rule. First, L&I released a revised draft of its proposed refinery-specific PSM rule language; the Department, however, will not be accepting comments on this language until formal rulemaking begins

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB or Agency) recently published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for its accidental reporting rule in the Federal Register (Proposed Rule). The CSB was established by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, which directed the Agency, among other things, to investigate and report on any accidental release “resulting in a fatality, serious injury or substantial property damage.” The statute also required the CSB to issue a rule governing the reporting of accidental releases to the CSB under 42 U.S.C. section 7412(r)(6)(C)(iii), which the Agency has not done since it began operations in 1998. Following a lawsuit by advocacy groups, the Agency is now being required by court order to promulgate reporting requirements by February 2020.
Continue Reading CSB proposes rule on accidental release reporting

On November 7, 2019, OSHA held a public stakeholder meeting on safety key performance indicators (KPIs).  During this meeting, the agency sought input from employers and industry groups on leading and lagging safety KPIs.  Specifically, OSHA aimed to gather information about: (1) how companies regularly implement leading indicators; (2) how the information is used to strengthen work protection best practices; (3) the possibility of creating a digital library of leading indicators accessible on the OSHA website; and (4) next steps for OSHA’s leading and lagging indicators.  The agency did not specify how this information would be used and, specifically, whether it would be utilized to develop a future rulemaking or guidance document.
Continue Reading OSHA conducts public stakeholder meeting on safety key performance indicators

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a reconsideration rule rescinding many of the agency’s changes and additions made during the Obama administration to strengthen the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations that address facilities using highly hazardous chemicals. This rulemaking follows the D.C. Circuit’s decision in 2018 that the EPA’s previous effort to rescind the new RMP elements was not justified by sufficient rationale, and so includes additional information regarding the basis for the agency’s decision. The new reconsideration rule specifically rescinds requirements relating to root cause analysis incident investigations, third-party audits, safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA), and public availability of information, but retains certain requirements relating to emergency response and coordination.
Continue Reading EPA again rolls back Obama Administration RMP regulations

On October 8, 2019, the Office of Administrative Law approved an adjustment to the covered electronic waste (CEW) recycling fee for covered electronic devices (CED). This CEW recycling fee is assessed when a California consumer buys a CED – generally, any video display device with a screen larger than four inches – from a retailer. These fees fund the CEW Recycling Program, which is run by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). At least once every two years, CalRecycle is required to assess the adequacy of the CEW recycling fee to generate sufficient revenues to fund the operation and administration of the CEW Recycling Program. This year, the CEW recycling fees were decreased by a dollar. The new fee levels are:

  • four dollars ($4) for each CED with a screen size of less than 15 inches measured diagonally;
  • five dollars ($5) for each CED with a screen size greater than or equal to 15 inches but less than 35 inches measured diagonally; and
  • six dollars ($6) for each CED with a screen size greater than or equal to 35 inches measured diagonally.

Continue Reading Adjustment to the covered electronic waste (CEW) recycling fee for covered electronic devices (CED)

On September 25, 2019, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) voted unanimously to approve Dr. Katherine A. Lemos, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). Dr. Lemos’ nomination will now advance to the full Senate for confirmation.
Continue Reading Senate Environment & Public Works Committee votes unanimously to approve Dr. Katherine Lemos to head the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

On September 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army issued a pre-publication draft of the final rule to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS Rule), which amended existing Clean Water Act (CWA) regulations. According to the EPA, the agencies’ goal is to “implement the pre-2015 Rule regulations nationwide as informed by applicable agency guidance documents and consistent with Supreme Court decisions and longstanding agency practice.”

The WOTUS Rule built on the existing regulatory scheme and defined the geographic scope of the CWA by placing waters into three categories: (1) waters that are categorically “jurisdictional by rule” in all instances; (2) waters that are subject to case-specific analysis to determine whether they are jurisdictional; and (3) waters that are categorically excluded from jurisdiction.Continue Reading EPA repeals 2015 WOTUS rule amid broader environmental regulatory rollbacks

On September 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent for pre-publication review to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a final draft rule aimed at repealing regulatory changes to the Risk Management Program (RMP). The RMP regulations establish a performance-based standard for process safety applicable to facilities that utilize or manufacture a threshold quantity of highly hazardous chemicals, historically mirroring the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The EPA had previously set internal deadlines for the agency to complete the rule – first in January 2019, and then in August, when its initial deadline passed. Having missed both deadlines, the agency then established a plan to finalize the rule by the end of 2019. Review by the OMB can take up to 90 days. Steven Cook, deputy assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, indicated at an environmental conference in August 2019 that the agency was working to review a significant number of public comments on the proposed rollback rule, and that the EPA planned to proceed in a manner that was “staying inside the bounds of what the statute, the regulations have in place.”Continue Reading EPA sends Risk Management Program rollback rule to OMB

The California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (Board) is soliciting public comments on proposed revisions to its Rules of Practice and Procedure. The three-member Board hears appeals from public- and private-sector employers regarding citations issued by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and is authorized to adopt procedural rules related to these appeals. If adopted, the proposals would primarily affect the way appeals are docketed and discovery is conducted during proceedings before the Board.
Continue Reading Cal/OSHA Appeals Board proposes revisions to procedural rules, including elimination of automatic discovery