A regular MSHA citation that hits all the high notes in terms of penalty points will cost as much as $72,620 in 2019 (based on company size, prior violations, negligence, and gravity), MSHA announced yesterday. A flagrant MSHA violation – the most severe – will now cost $266,275.
Can OSHA inspect cannabis facilities? Some cannabis cultivators and manufacturers believe they are exempt from OSHA visits because the Federal government does not recognize cannabis as a legal drug. According to a recent case in California, the government disagrees.
A report at the end of last year by DOL’s Office of Inspector General highlights what OIG considers major challenges for OSHA and MSHA in fulfilling their missions. The report also provides a window into where the workplace safety agencies may focus their energies in 2019 – and where employers may face increased risks of enforcement and other liability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Here’s an all-too-familiar story with an all-too-uncommon ending. An MSHA inspector saw equipment positioned a certain way, assumed that someone had used it unsafely in that position, and issued a citation. A judge then upheld the citation by giving more weight to the inspector’s assumption than to the worker’s sworn testimony about how he acted safely. But, in this case, the mine operator refused to accept that unfair result. They appealed… and won.
By Julia Banegas
With an open slot for the Trump administration to make an appointment, will the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) fall in line with the deregulatory agenda of other federal agencies or continue to recommend stricter rules?