An internal DOL memorandum last year to OSHA regional administrators confirms that OSHA can deploy Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) otherwise referred to as “drones” equipped with cameras to assist with its enforcement and regulatory functions. What do employers need to know? How should you respond to a drone inspection?

Continue Reading Look! Up in the sky … it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s OSHA?

Can mis-steps with OSHA land you in jail? Several recent cases are a reminder that the risk is real. While OSHA rarely makes a criminal case out of safety violations, it does pursue criminal charges when people mislead the agency through false statements, falsified records, or destroyed documents. A company that does not take great care in handling an investigation risks such costly errors, leading to criminal prosecution and stiff penalties under federal law.

Continue Reading Yes, OSHA violations can send you to jail

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.
Continue Reading MSHA updates its penalties, topping out at $266,275 per violation

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.

Continue Reading Will OIG report lead to greater OSHA and MSHA enforcement?

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.

Continue Reading Digging in deeper: OSHA raises enforcement on trenching and excavation

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.

Continue Reading Recent case highlights key to defending MSHA immediate reporting citations: Totality of the circumstances

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.

Continue Reading MSHA removes mine from POV status in settlement and retiring commissioner objects

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.

Continue Reading Strengthening its cooperative approach, OSHA updates Voluntary Protection Program