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“CSB Releases New Safety Video Detailing Investigation into 2013 Fatal Fire and Explosion at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, LA”

January 25, 2017, Washington, DC –

Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety video of its investigation of the June 13, 2013 explosion and fire at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, Louisiana, which killed two workers and injured an additional 167.  The deadly explosion and fire occurred when a heat exchanger containing flammable liquid propane violently ruptured.

The CSB’s newly released 12-minute safety video entitled, “Blocked In,” includes a 3D animation of the explosion and fire as well as interviews with CSB investigator Lauren Grim and Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. The video is based on the CSB’s case study on the Williams incident and can be viewed on the CSB’s website and YouTube.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “Our investigation on the explosion at Williams describes an ineffective process safety management program at the plant at the time of the incident. We urge other companies to incorporate our recommendations at their facilities and to assess the state of their cultures to promote safety at all organizational levels to prevent a similar accident. ”

The CSB’s investigation found many process safety management program deficiencies at Williams, which set the stage for the incident. In particular, the CSB found that the heat exchanger that failed was completely isolated from its pressure relief valve.

In the video, Investigator Lauren Grim said, “When evaluating overpressure protection requirements for heat exchangers, engineers must think about how to manage potential scenarios, including unintentional hazards. In this case, simply having a pressure relief valve available could have prevented the explosion.”

The CSB investigation concluded that in the twelve years leading to the incident, a series of process safety management program deficiencies caused the heat exchanger to be unprotected from overpressure.  As revealed in the investigation, during that time Management of Change Reviews, Pre-Startup Safety Reviews, and Process Hazard Analyses all failed to effectively identify and control the hazard.

In addition, the CSB found that Williams failed to develop a written procedure for activities performed on the day of the incident, nor did the company have a routine maintenance schedule to prevent the operational heat exchanger from needing to be shut down for cleaning.

Finally, the video describes CSB’s recommendations made to the Williams Geismar plant which  encourages similar companies to review and incorporate into their own facilities. These include:

– Conduct safety culture assessments that involve workforce participation, and communicate the results in reports that recommend specific actions to address safety culture weaknesses

– Develop a robust safety indicators tracking program that uses the data identified to drive continual safety improvement

– And perform comprehensive process safety program assessments to thoroughly evaluate the effectiveness of the facility’s process safety programs.

“Managers must implement and then monitor safety programs and encourage a strong culture of safety to protect workers and the environment,” Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said,

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. CSB investigations examine all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit our website, http://www.csb.gov.

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at public@csb.gov or by phone at 202.446.8095.

 

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“OSHA 300 Logs: Four Common Mistakes Employers Make”

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This is your annual reminder about the important annual February 1st deadline to prepare, certify and post your OSHA 300A Annual Summary of workplace injuries and illnesses, for all U.S. employers, except those with ten or fewer employees or those whose NAICS code is for the set of low hazard industries exempted from OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping requirements, such as dental offices, advertising services, and car dealers (see the exempted industries at Appendix A to Subpart B of Part 1904).

Specifically, by February 1st every year, employers must:

  • Review their OSHA 300 Log(s);
  • Verify the entries on the 300 Log are complete and accurate;
  • Correct any deficiencies identified on the 300 Log;
  • Use the injury data from the 300 Log to calculate an annual summary of injuries and illnesses and complete the 300A Annual Summary Form; and
  • Certify the accuracy of the 300 Log and the 300A Summary Form.

The Form 300A is a summation of the workplace injuries and illnesses recorded on the OSHA 300 Log during the previous calendar year, as well as the total hours worked that year by all employees covered by the particular OSHA 300 Log.

Four Common 300A Mistakes that Employers Make

We see employers make the following four common mistakes related to this annual injury and illness Recordkeeping duty:

  1. Not having a management representative with high enough status within the company “certify” the 300A;
  2. Not posting a 300A for years in which there were no recordable injuries;
  3. Not maintaining a copy of the certified version of the 300A form and
  4. Not updating prior years’ 300 Logs based on newly discovered information about previously unrecorded injuries or changes to injuries that were previously recorded.

Certifying the 300 Log and 300A Annual Summary

The 300 Log and the 300A Annual Summary Form are required to be “certified” by a “company executive.” Specifically what the company executives are certifying is that they:

  1. Personally examined the 300A Annual Summary Form;
  2. Personally examined the OSHA 300 Log from which the 300A Annual Summary was developed; and
  3. Reasonably believe, based on their knowledge of their companies’ recordkeeping processes that the 300A Annual Summary Form is correct and complete.

A common mistake employers make is to have a management representative sign the 300A Form who is not at a senior enough level in the company to constitute a “company executive.”  As set forth in 1904.32(b)(4), company executives include only the following individuals:

  • An owner of the company (only if the company is a sole proprietorship or partnership);
  • An officer of the corporation;
  • The highest ranking company official working at the establishment; or
  • The immediate supervisor of the highest ranking company official working at the establishment.

Posting the 300A Annual Summary

After certifying the 300A, OSHA’s Recordkeeping regulations require employers to post the certified copy of the 300A Summary Form in the location at the workplace where employee notices are usually posted.  The 300A must remain posted there for three months, through April 30th.

Another common mistake employers make is to not prepare or post a 300A Form in those years during which there were no recordable injuries or illnesses at the establishment.  Even when there have been no recordable injuries, OSHA regulations still require employers to complete the 300A form, entering zeroes into each column total, and to post the 300A just the same.

Maintaining the 300A for Five Years

After the certified 300A Annual Summaries have been posted between February 1st and April 30th, employers may take down the 300A Form, but must maintain for five years following the end of the prior calendar year, at the facility covered by the form or at a central location, a copy of:

  • The underlying OSHA 300 Log;
  • The certified 300A Annual Summary Form; and
  • Any corresponding 301 Incident Report forms.

In this technology era, many employers have transitioned to using electronic systems to prepare and store injury and illness recordkeeping forms. As a result, another common mistake employers make is to keep only the electronic version of the 300A, and not the version that was printed, “certified” typically by a handwritten signature and posted at the facility. Accordingly, those employers have no effective way to demonstrate to OSHA during an inspection or enforcement action that the 300A had been certified.

Finally, another common mistake employers make is to put away old 300 Logs and never look back, even if new information comes to light about injuries recorded on those logs.  However, OSHA’s Recordkeeping regulations require employers during the five-year retention period to update OSHA 300 Logs with newly discovered recordable injuries or illnesses, or to correct previously recorded injuries and illnesses to reflect changes that have occurred in the classification or other details.  This requirement applies only to the 300 Logs; i.e., technically there is no duty to update 300A Forms or OSHA 301 Incident Reports.

Source: JD Supra – Eric Conn

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“What Should You Do When OSHA Shows Up At Your Door” #OSHA #Inspection

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1/27/2017 by Krista Sterken  | Foley & Lardner LLP

You arrive at work bright and early, only to find that someone beat you there — OSHA is waiting to perform an inspection. Now what? Many employers think they have little say in what happens next. Actually, employers have many choices to make, starting as soon as OSHA arrives.

The first thing step is simply bringing the compliance officer to a conference room or other appropriate location. You should select a location that is private and located close to the entrance, so you do not have to walk the compliance officer through any more of your facility than necessary. If the compliance officer happens to see something that may be a violation, this could provide the basis for a citation and/or expansion of the inspection.

Next, it is time to collect some information — you need to understand why OSHA is there. There are three main types of inspections: complaint inspections (conducted in response to a safety complaint), report inspections (conducted in response to a report of an employee death, injury, or illness), and program inspections (conducted under one of OSHA’s emphasis programs, which focus on particular industries or hazards). In some cases, a previous citation might provide the basis for a follow-up inspection.

You also need to know what OSHA intends to do. The inspection should be tailored to the reason for the visit. For example, a complaint inspection should be limited to areas related to the complaint. Program inspections are dictated by the focus of the program — you can obtain more information from OSHA’s website. All inspections should follow OSHA’s Field Operations Manual.

Finally, you must decide whether to agree to OSHA’s inspection plan. If OSHA identified a legitimate basis for the inspection and an appropriate inspection plan, then you might decide to allow the inspection to begin. However, if you have concerns, you have the right to refuse entry and require OSHA to return with a warrant (unless there is an imminent danger, in which case OSHA must be permitted immediate entry). If you require a warrant, OSHA will have to persuade a judge that its intended inspection is appropriate.

Employers are often nervous about requiring a warrant. However, you have the right to do so. OSHA understands this, and is not permitted to retaliate against you in any way. Requiring a warrant can be an effective way to impose fair parameters for the inspection.

Once the inspection has started, you are only at the very beginning of the process. Because there will be countless other important decisions, involve counsel early (preferably, as soon as OSHA arrives). Every company should also give some advance thought to its “OSHA plan,” identifying specifically how a request for inspection will be handled long before a compliance officer shows up on the company’s doorstep.

“The Complexities Of Medical Marijuana In The Workplace” #Safety #RX

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With the growing list of states legalizing marijuana, are workplace drug policies up in smoke? As the new year begins, Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota join the growing list of states that have legalized medical marijuana. Currently, 28 states* and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana use for certain medicinal purposes, and eight states** and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes to some extent. The rules and regulations implementing these changes won’t be finalized and put into effect immediately – for instance, the Florida Department of Health has until July 3, 2017 to promulgate regulations for licensing and distribution and until October 3, 2017 to begin issuing medical marijuana identification cards. Even so, it’s best to analyze the impact of the changing marijuana landscape now and prepare for the future.

The 2016 Election and Marijuana Policy

To be clear, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. As recently as August 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration restated that marijuana has no acceptable recreational or medicinal purpose, and should remain a Schedule I substance on the Controlled Substances Act. For perspective, heroin and ecstasy are also classified as Schedule I substances.

President-elect Donald J. Trump did not make marijuana policy a priority during his election campaign, and it’s uncertain how his administration will address this issue. On many other issues, Trump indicates a willingness to defer to states. But, certain of President-elect Trump’s picks, including Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Rep. Tom Price for Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, suggest the new administration will be less tolerant of marijuana use. As Attorney General, Senator Sessions could renounce the Cole and Ogden Memos issued under the Obama administration, which, in part, state that the Department of Justice will not interfere with businesses and individuals operating legally under state cannabis laws, as long as organized crime and sales to minors are not implicated. Given Sessions’ comments as a U.S. Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s that he thought the KKK “were OK until I found out they smoked pot,” his criticism of FBI Director James Comey and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch for not vigorously enforcing the federal prohibition, and his floor speech last year stating that marijuana “is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal,” a change in federal enforcement may be in store.

Workplace Safety Remains a Priority

Employers continue to be required to provide employees with a safe workplace and should not compromise safety due to an employee’s use of any legal prescription medication, including medical marijuana. Under OSHA regulations, employers can continue to have drug-free workplace policies, and should prohibit the use of or being under the influence of controlled substances while at work. An article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine from May 2015 noted that there is a “likely statistical association between illicit drug use (including marijuana) and workplace accidents.” Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana’s effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days, or even weeks, after use. Companies with employees who work in the public sector, such as in transportation, or employees who work in safety-sensitive positions, or operate heavy machinery, should be especially cautious of safety concerns.

Can an employer continue to enforce a zero-tolerance drug policy with regards to pre-employment screening and random drug testing?

Particularly in the three states where medical marijuana is newly legal (Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota), employers are left wondering what to do about pre-employment screening and random drug testing.

Employers in states that explicitly say employers have no duty to accommodate medical marijuana users can probably rely on such language when screening or discharging applicants or employees for marijuana-positive drug tests results. In Florida, for example, Amendment 2 provides that the law shall not “require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana” in any place of employment. This presumably means that in Florida, an employer may prohibit an employee from using and/or being under the influence of medical marijuana at the workplace. Similarly, in 2015, in Coats v. Dish Network, LLC, the Supreme Court of Colorado affirmed the termination of employment of an employee who tested positive for marijuana despite having used the drug off-duty for a medicinal purpose, because such use violated federal law and the employer’s drug policy.

In some states, the medical marijuana laws expressly prohibit employment discrimination against medical marijuana users. There may be a potential risk of a claim (such as for disability discrimination under a state equivalent of the federal ADA) in these states by individuals who use marijuana for a medical purpose and are subjected to adverse employment actions. Where state law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for medical marijuana users, or makes it unlawful for an employer to take an adverse action against an applicant or employee based on medical marijuana use, employers there must be particularly cautious and may need to modify screening and testing policies in order to remain compliant with state law.

What about post-accident testing?

How do employers reconcile automatic drug-testing required by workers’ compensation laws with the new state laws legalizing medical marijuana? Can an employer still require employees to undergo post-accident testing?

Generally, federal law permits employers to test for drugs during accident investigations. In 2016, in a final rule and subsequent clarifying Memorandum, OSHA stated it does not prohibit employers from drug testing employees who report work-related injuries and illnesses as long as the employer has an objectively reasonable basis for conducting the testing, i.e., that the employer can show a reasonable basis for believing that drug use could have contributed to the reported injury or illness. OSHA prohibits the use of drug testing by employers as a form of discipline against employees who report workplace related injuries or illnesses.

Conclusion

The trend towards legalizing marijuana, at least for medical purposes, has continued at the state level. It remains to be seen how the courts and federal agencies will interpret and enforce the laws in 2017. The bottom line is that employers who have not yet determined how they will deal with workplace issues relating to marijuana should do soon.

 

* Medical: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

** Recreational: California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine

Source: JD Supra

“OSHA Enforcement Case Database By State” #OSHA #Violations #Data

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Enforcement Cases with Initial Penalties Above $40,000

(Includes citations issued starting January 1, 2015. Cases are updated weekly. There is a posting delay to ensure the parties have been notified.)

Click on link to view States Map and Violations by State : https://www.osha.gov/topcases/bystate.html

NOTE: OSHA is currently migrating its legacy system. Cases prior to 2011 (Federal OSHA) and 2013 (OSHA State Plans) may be affected by this migration. Cases indicated without the .015 extension reflect the data as of 08/05/2016. The next updates for those cases will be reflected October, 2016. Should you need case status updates for those cases before October 2016, please contact your originating OSHA Office.

“Donnie’s Accident” – “I Was Too Good To Need My Safety Gear”

Donnie's Accident

On August 12, 2004, I was connecting large electrical generator in preparation for Hurricane Charlie. The meter I was using failed and blew carbon into the gear and created an electrical arc which resulted in an arc blast. The electrical equipment shown in the video is the actual equipment after the explosion when my co-workers were there trying to restore power and make temporary repairs. I ended up with full thickness, 3rd degree burns to both hands and arms along with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to my neck and face. I was in a coma for two months due to numerous complications from infections and medications.

During this time my family endured 4 hurricanes and the possibility of losing me. I am a husband, a father, a son and a brother, not just an electrician. It took almost two years of healing, surgeries and rehabilitation to only be able to return to work to an office job. I can’t use my hands and arms as well as I once could… BUT I’M ALIVE! There are those who have had similar accidents and fared much, much worse. I use my experiences to caution others.

All of this could have been avoided if I had been wearing my personal protection equipment (PPE), which I was fully trained to do and was in my work van. I would have probably only gone to the hospital for a checkup! I am asking you to protect yourself by following your safety procedures. Accidents at work not only affect you; think about the effects on your family, your friends, your finances, your company, your co-workers… your entire world.

Most of these injuries can be prevented by following the safety rules your company probably have in place. Most of these rules were put in place because of accidents like mine. Be safe, wear your PPE; not for fear of fines, penalties or getting fired. Be safe for yourself and for all the people close to you. I got a second chance… You might not!!! !!!

You can read a more in depth account of my accident on the “Full Story” page.

OSHA Arc Flash Safety Information
Understanding “Arc Flash” – Occupational Safety and Health …
https://www.osha.gov/…/arc_flash_han…

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

Employees must follow the requirements of the Arc Flash Hazard label by wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), use of insulated tools and other safety related precautions. This includes not working on or near the circuit unless you are a “qualified” worker.

“Infographic: “Is It Recordable?”

Is It Recordable?

Is It Recordable? by Safety.BLR.com

“OSHA – DOL News Release” – “Worker Falls 22 Feet to Death, 4 Months After OSHA Cites Employer for Failing to Protect Workers on the Same Job Site”

Worker falls 22 feet to death  4 months after OSHA cites employer for failing to protect workers on the same job site

Louisville employer faces $320K in fines for serial disregard of fall protection

ADDISON, Ill. ‒ Four months after federal safety investigators cited his employer for failing to provide workers with fall protection at a United Parcel Service facility in Addison, a 42-year-old employee of Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services, fell 22 feet to his death at the same site.

On July 29, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the employer for three egregious willful violations for exposing workers to falls over 6 feet, after its investigation of the Feb. 9, 2016, fatality. OSHA also cited three repeated and three serious safety violations.

“A man is dead because this employer decided to break the law over and over again. Before this tragedy, OSHA cited this contractor twice for exposing workers to fall hazards, including at the same site just four months earlier,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor of Occupational Safety and Health. “OSHA is asking companies contracting with Material Handling Systems to take strong steps to ensure that this employer protects its employees, and terminate its contracts if this employer continues to violate OSHA regulations. Material Handling Systems employer must demonstrate it can work safely and stop injuring its employees.”

OSHA also found Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical:

–       Exposed other workers to falls of up to 22 feet as they hoisted conveyor equipment while working on raised surfaces with unprotected sides. Failed to determine whether walking and working surfaces could structurally support employees.

–       Allowed workers to use a combustible polyethylene tarp as a welding curtain, which created a serious fire hazard.

OSHA cited Material Handling Systems most recently for fall protection violations in October 2015 at the same jobsite. In 2014, OSHA cited the company for similar violations after an employee suffered serious injuries in a fall in Keasby, New Jersey. The employer also received fall protection citations in 2009 in Oregon and 2012 in Florida. The company’s workers’ compensation carrier is Old Republic Insurance Company of Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services removes and installs high-speed conveyor systems. In this case, the company was working under a multi-million contract with United Parcel Service to dismantle existing conveyor systems and install new, high-speed conveyors at UPS’s Addison facility.

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services faces total proposed penalties of $320,400. View current citations here.

Preventable falls account for nearly 40 percent of all deaths in the construction industry. Federal safety and health officials are determined to reduce the number of preventable, fall-related deaths in the construction industry. OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page provides fact sheets, posters, and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.

OSHA’s ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program. Begun in 2012, the campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for workers and train employees to use fall protection equipment properly.

Material Handling Systems/MHS Technical Services has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s North Aurora office at 630-896-8700.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

# # #

Media Contacts:

Scott Allen, 312-353-6976, allen.scott@dol.gov
Rhonda Burke, 312-353-6976, burke.rhonda@dol.gov

Release Number: 16-1572-CHI

Fall Protection Training – Miller Fall Protection

“OSHA Says “Negative” To Post-Accident Testing”

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By John Hyman

Buried in OSHA’s impending final rule on electronic reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses is this little nugget. OSHA believes that you violate the law if you require an employee to take a post-accident drug test. Let me repeat. According to OSHA, you violate the law if you automatically drug test any employee after an on-the-job accident.

Allow me to pause while this sinks in.

While this prohibition doesn’t appear in the the actual text of the final rule, it does prominently appear in OSHA’s interpretation of the provision which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who reporting a work-related injury or illness:

“OSHA believes the evidence in the rulemaking record shows that blanket post-injury drug testing policies deter proper reporting.… [T]his final rule does not ban drug testing of employees. However, the final rule does prohibit employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses. To strike the appropriate balance here, drug testing policies should limit post-incident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident, and for which the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.… Employers need not specifically suspect drug use before testing, but there should be a reasonable possibility that drug use by the reporting employee was a contributing factor to the reported injury or illness in order for an employer to require drug testing.”

“What about workers’ compensation laws,” you say? “State law requires post-accident testing. What gives?” OSHA hears your cries, and has an answer for you:

A few commenters also raised the concern that the final rule will conflict with drug testing requirements contained in workers’ compensation laws. This concern is unwarranted. If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and the final rule would not prohibit such testing. This is doubly true because Section 4(b)(4) of the Act prohibits OSHA from superseding or affecting workers’ compensation laws.

Make no mistake, this interpretation is huge for employers. As a result of this new reporting standard, employer policies that require post-accident drug testing will face scrutiny by OSHA, and OSHA will cite you for any policy that mandates post-accident testing without consideration of the specific facts and circumstances of the injury. Further, OSHA will deem retaliatory any employer discipline for a failed or refused post-accident test unless the drug use is likely to have contributed to the accident and for which the test can accurately identify pre-accident drug-related impairment. That’s a high bar for employers to clear.

This rule was to take effect on August 10, but OSHA has stated that it is delaying enforcement until November 1. If you have a drug testing policy or otherwise engage post-accident testing in your workplace, now is the time to review your policies and practices with your employment counsel. This issue is very much on OSHA’s radar, which means it must be on your radar also.

Source: Ohio OSHA Law Blog

About the author of this post:

Jon Hyman

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 831-0042, ext. 140 or jhyman@meyersroman.com.

A bit of clarity from the OSHA Interpretation link above:

Some commenters stated their belief that drug testing of employees is important for a safe workplace; some expressed concern that OSHA planned a wholesale ban on drug testing (Exs. 1667, 1674). To the contrary, this final rule does not ban drug testing of employees. However, the final rule does prohibit employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses. To strike the appropriate balance here, drug testing policies should limit post-incident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident, and for which the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.

For example, it would likely not be reasonable to drug-test an employee who reports a bee sting, a repetitive strain injury, or an injury caused by a lack of machine guarding or a machine or tool malfunction. Such a policy is likely only to deter reporting without contributing to the employer’s understanding of why the injury occurred, or in any other way contributing to workplace safety. Employers need not specifically suspect drug use before testing, but there should be a reasonable possibility that drug use by the reporting employee was a contributing factor to the reported injury or illness in order for an employer to require drug testing. In addition, drug testing that is designed in a way that may be perceived as punitive or embarrassing to the employee is likely to deter injury reporting.

A few commenters also raised the concern that the final rule will conflict with drug testing requirements contained in workers’ compensation laws. This concern is unwarranted. If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and the final rule would not prohibit such testing. This is doubly true because Section 4(b)(4) of the Act prohibits OSHA from superseding or affecting workers’ compensation laws. 29 U.S.C. 653(b)

Update 8/2/2016

Court Case Filed in Texas in July for an:

EMERGENCY MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND REQUEST FOR EXPEDITED BRIEFING SCHEDULE AND HEARING –

A downloadable copy of motion in PDF format can be found at: http://bit.ly/2azdxZK

“OSHA Electronic Recordkeeping Final Rule Places New Requirements On Employers”

On May 12, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a long-awaited final rule requiring certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data, providing for such data to be made publicly available, and updating employee notification and antiretaliation provisions.

Background

OSHA is charged with enforcing the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), which applies to virtually all private employers. OSHA, either directly or through states with parallel agencies to which OSHA defers rulemaking and enforcement, requires almost all employers to prepare and maintain routine records of certain work injuries and illnesses (“recordable” incidents). These records include a report for each recordable incident (Form 301), a log of such incidents (Form 300), and an annual summary (Form 300A) that must be completed and posted even if no recordable incidents occurred during the year.

Previously, OSHA could obtain the establishment-specific injury and illness data contained in these routine records only in three limited ways: (1) workplace inspections, (2) surveys to employers under the OSHA Data Initiative, and (3) mandatory employer reporting of certain workplace illnesses and injuries, including fatalities.

The final rule greatly expands OSHA’s access to this information by requiring certain employers to regularly and electronically submit data from their routine records. Specifically, the rule requires the following:

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep routine records must electronically submit required information from all three records annually (no later than March 2 of the year after the calendar year covered by the form).
  • Establishments with 20 to 249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit required information from Form 300A annually (no later than March 2 of the year after the calendar year covered by the form).
  • Establishments must electronically submit requested information from their routine records upon notification from OSHA

OSHA plans to phase in implementation of the data collection system beginning July 2017. By March 2019, all establishments covered under the final rule must submit all required information.

OSHA hopes the electronic submission requirements will help it use resources more effectively and encourage employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses by allowing the agency to obtain a much larger and more timely database of the information that most employers are already required to record.

Publication of illness and injury data

Notably, OSHA will make the collected information publicly available in a searchable online database. The agency hopes that researchers and the public will also be able to use the data to identify work-related hazards and particularly hazardous industries and processes.

OSHA insists that it doesn’t intend to release personally identifiable information from reported records and that it will use “software that will search for and de-identify personally identifiable information before OSHA posts the data.” Given the frequency of media reports on the fallibility of even the most sophisticated data security systems and companies, many are understandably skeptical about the agency’s ability to safeguard employee information under this new electronic reporting system.

Employee notification and retaliation

The final rule also amends OSHA’s record-keeping regulation with respect to how employers inform employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses. This part of the rule:

  • (1)  Requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation;
  • (2)  Clarifies the existing implicit requirement that an employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses be reasonable and that a procedure that would deter or discourage reporting isn’t reasonable; and
  • (3)  Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses, consistent with the existing “whistleblower” provisions in Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.

The third aspect of this part of the new rule is significant because it provides OSHA with an additional enforcement tool with respect to employee retaliation. Whereas OSHA could always take action against an employer in response to an employee complaint under Section 11(c), OSHA will now be able to issue citations to employers for retaliating against employees even absent an employee complaint. The agency anticipates that feasible abatement methods will mirror the remedies under Section 11(c), which include but aren’t limited to rehiring or reinstatement with back pay. Employers can contest citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA explains that the final rule prohibits retaliatory adverse action against an employee “simply because” she reported a work-related injury or illness. To that end, the final rule states that nothing in it “prohibits employers from disciplining employees for violating legitimate safety rules, even if the same employee . . . was injured as a result of that violation and reported that injury or illness.” Importantly, employees who violate the same work rule must be treated similarly regardless of whether they also reported a work-related illness or injury. The final rule notes that postinjury drug-testing policies and employee safety incentive programs will be scrutinized under this provision.

States with their own occupational safety and health plans will be required to adopt identical requirements in their record-keeping and reporting regulations.

The employee notification and retaliation provisions become effective August 10, 2016. The remainder of the final rule becomes effective January 1, 2017.

Bottom line

OSHA continues to push through initiatives intended to raise the bar on workplace safety and health standards, including with respect to employer record keeping and reporting. In light of the 80 percent penalty increases in effect this summer, you should consult with counsel to ensure you comply with any new obligations that may apply under this new rule.

Arielle Sepulveda is an attorney with Day Pitney LLP in Parsippany, New Jersey. She can be reached at 973-966-8063 or asepulveda@daypitney.com.

Source:BLR® and Conn Maciel, Carey PLLC
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