As manufacturing technology has evolved, the industry has long waited for OSHA regulations to catch up. In particular, lockout/tagout requirements (LOTO) have never allowed the latest control circuit technologies to protect workers. In addition, until now, OSHA has not addressed safety issues involving the latest wave of robotics in the workplace. That change now appears to be underway.

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With congressional, media, and MSHA pressure to focus on black lung disease, mine operators should expect stringent enforcement of coal dust standards and potentially new regulation, as well. In the latest edition of Coal Age magazine, I take a look at the latest developments and offer some thoughts on how MSHA may respond.

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As I write in the current issue of Rock Products magazine, mining is an industry approaching zero, with record low fatality rates. But, enforcement doesn’t always follow risk. Mines account for only 0.5% of U.S. workplace fatalities but have 40% of federal safety dollars. Even within mining, mines with fantastic safety records are just as likely to get intensive MSHA inspections as those with severe problems. Is there a better way?

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In 2016, OSHA issued a serious citation to a private security guard firm that did not require its armed security guards to wear bulletproof vests. An ALJ tossed out the citation, but the story’s not over. OSHA has an appeal pending before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. At stake: whether certain employers must require employees to wear bulletproof vests as personal protective equipment (PPE).

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Though Safety Law Matters is all about workplace safety and health, we know many of you deal with employment law issues at your companies and wanted to flag an important blog post by our colleagues. This Spring, the Social Security Administration began sending employers “no-match” letters for W-2s that had mismatched names or Social Security Numbers (compared with SSA’s records). How should you respond?

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When Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta testified before Congress earlier this month, he emphasized balancing safety agencies’ legal obligations and commitments with President Trump’s commitment to deregulation. Meanwhile, members from both parties on the Subcommittee of Labor, Health, Human Services, Education and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations focused heavily on $1.2 billion in proposed budget cuts at the Department of Labor (but not for OSHA or MSHA).

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Baked into the core of federal safety laws is the concept that employers facing unfair citations can get a day in court. That system depends on two independent commissions of judges – both trial judges and appellate – to hear and review cases involving OSHA and MSHA citations. Keeping those panels stocked with commissioners has been an ongoing challenge.

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