Today the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pension and the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a joint hearing on how the opioid epidemic is affecting workplaces and communities. Members heard about how employers are impacted by the epidemic and how they are addressing opioid misuse via workplace drug testing. Witnesses discussed how employers are using Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide confidential assistance with drug abuse problems. A recent survey by the National Safety Council reported that 70 percent of all U.S. companies and 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have an EAP to assist employees struggling with substance abuse and other problems.

“We must understand that the federal government must not act as a barrier or tie the hands of employers when it comes to addressing opioid abuse in the workplace,” said Rep. Tim Walberg. “Rather, we should fortify employers’ efforts to help their employees and family members, who are affected by this epidemic.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne added, “Employers are recognizing the risks that opioid abuse has on the workplace, and it is reassuring to hear that businesses large and small are taking steps to address this problem in their organizations.”

It remains unclear how or if OSHA and MSHA will directly address the opioid epidemic.

Husch Blackwell partners Brian Hendrix and Stephen Cockerham presented a related webinar recently: “Creating Safe, Drug-free Workplaces That Comply With OSHA’s Latest Guidance.” You can view the webinar on demand by clicking here.

For those following environmental rules, our colleague, Phil Bower, reported this week about Monday’s Supreme Court decision on the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule (the “WOTUS Rule” or “Rule”). The Court unanimously held that challenges to the rule belong in a U.S. district court, not a court of appeals. Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Sends Waters of the US Rule to District Courts; Nationwide Stay in Question

Everyone from political junkies to average citizens has an opinion on the January 2018 government shutdown, and some may have bets on its duration. However, while the government continues to flounder, the private sector economy continues to run. How does the shutdown affect OSHA and MSHA enforcement? Continue Reading What effect does the government shutdown have on OSHA and MSHA enforcement?

Earlier today, the United States Senate voted to confirm David G. Zatezalo as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. The vote split along party lines, with all 52 Republican Senators voting to confirm the nominee and every Democratic Senator voting against him. Zatezelo should be sworn in later this week or next.

As the new leaders at MSHA start to report to work, what changes should they consider? From my work helping mine operators navigate MSHA compliance and challenges, a number of broad trends have emerged in recent years. In the current issue of Coal Age, I consider 10 changes that could make a difference. Continue Reading My clients’ top 10 MSHA changes that could make a difference