OSHA says it will increase enforcement with a revised National Emphasis Program (NEP) for trenching and excavation because of an increase in fatalities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, trenching and excavation deaths nearly tripled between 2011 and 2016 (130 deaths in all in that time). The revised NEP will add enforcement, compliance assistance, and outreach programs.

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One unique challenge on mine sites is the rule requiring a phone call to MSHA within 15 minutes of certain serious accidents. Operators otherwise consumed with emergency response must make quick, on-the-scene judgments about whether a miner’s medical condition is life threatening. With 20/20 hindsight, MSHA often disagrees with their decisions and issues citations. A recent case vacating a 15-minute reporting citation is a reminder that there are often good grounds to contest such allegations.

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Summer may now be over, but the debate over how OSHA should regulate worker exposure to heat – indoors and out – may be getting hotter. Over the summer, both the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and a coalition of private advocacy groups and individuals supported OSHA developing a heat stress standard. While OSHA has offered guidance on protecting workers from overheating and cited companies under the catch-all General Duty Clause, it does not currently have particular heat exposure limits or mandates.

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According to a recent court opinion, last month MSHA reached a settlement with a mining company that included removing the company from the list of operators with a “pattern of violations” (POV). While a 3-1 majority of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission agreed to dismiss the case, one commissioner dissented strongly.

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With the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, occupational safety and health professionals may be interested in the impact he may have on future cases involving OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, MSHA, and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act. Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week has shown him to be thoughtful and very well qualified (not to mention incredibly patient).  At this point, it seems apparent to all that he will soon be confirmed by the Senate.

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As the Trump Administration pursues its agenda of de-regulation, OSHA issued a policy memo recently, reversing course on a key part of its approach to the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). According to a May 30th memo, which revised a 2013 policy (“Memorandum #7”), OSHA will no longer automatically issue an Intent to Terminate Notice (ITT) to companies on VPP when certain events occur. Instead, the agency will take a more deferential and conciliatory approach to overseeing VPP participants. The changes implemented by the May 2018 memo took effect immediately.

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OSHA and a long list of public and private partners are promoting next week as Safe + Sound Week. The goal is to raise awareness about the value of integrated safety and health programs in workplaces. Companies looking to participate in local public events or hold their own can find resources and ideas at the OSHA Safe + Sound web site.


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Last month, OSHA’s administrator for Region VII issued a press release announcing the agency’s intention to counter the increase in work-related fatalities in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. During the current fiscal year (Oct17-Sep18), OSHA has investigated 34 fatalities in these states.  Sadly, that number has continued to rise in the weeks since the press release was issued.  What can we learn from this announcement?

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