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Expedited Whistleblower Review Pilot launched in western region

Effective August 1, a pilot program in the Western region allows whistleblowers, protected by certain statutes, to expedite the process by requesting that the agency stop an investigation and release findings to the Office of Administrative Law Judges. The western region covered by the new "Expedited Case Processing Pilot," includes Nevada, Arizona, California, Hawaii, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.

The case has to meet certain criteria to qualify for this expedited processing: it must be filed under a statute that allows for a fresh review from an ALJ, the whistleblower must have been interviewed by OSHA, the complaint must be evaluated to determine if the elements for a retaliation claim are there, both the complainant and the respondent must have had an opportunity to write responses and meet with OSHA to present their statements, and the complaint must have been filed at least 30 to 60 days earlier before the complainant can ask for an expedited review.

Administrative Law Judges can order the same recompenses as OSHA and they can order back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, reinstatement, and attorney fees.

PSM standard: interim enforcement policy for Appendix A chemicals issued

A July field memorandum for regional administrators and state plan designees rescinds and replaces a June 2015 memorandum regarding the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and covered concentrations of listed Appendix A chemicals.

In response to concerns that the 2015 memorandum significantly expanded the scope of chemical mixtures covered by the PSM Standard and a legal challenge that this significant change to the PSM standard was made by way of an interpretation memo, rather than the formal "notice-and-comment rulemaking," the new memorandum retains the new 1% Rule proposed to be adopted in the June 2015 memorandum for most chemicals listed on Appendix A to the PSM standard.

In determining whether a process involves a chemical (whether pure or in a mixture) at or above the specified threshold quantities listed in Appendix A, the employer shall calculate:

The new interpretation is different than the 2015 memorandum, however, in that it carves out any chemical listed in Appendix A as "anhydrous" where such chemical is part of an aqueous solution or aqueous mixture.

Employers will not be cited through March 31, 2017, for violations of the PSM standard related to the memo. Through March 31, 2018, the agency will "make it a top priority" for compliance assistance specialists to help employers comply with changes to the standard.

Warning of methylene chloride hazards

A new addition to the Fatal Facts series emphasizes how quickly methylene chloride vapors can reach life-threatening levels when using common paint stripping products. It features the story of a temporary worker who died while using a paint stripper containing this hazardous substance to remove the coating from a bathtub.

New resources highlight tractor safety

A magnet encouraging tractor operators to practice safe handling when in the driver's seat, is available in English or Spanish and is designed to be placed directly on tractors.

Start date for federal contractor disclosure requirements: Oct. 25, 2016

Beginning in late October, prospective federal contractors will be required to disclose previous labor law violations as part of final guidance recently announced by the Department of Labor and the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council.The final regulations, scheduled to go into effect in phases beginning on Oct. 25, require employers bidding for a federal contract worth at least $500,000 to disclose any of 14 established violations of workplace protections cited during the previous three years. Violations that must be disclosed include those related to safety and health, family and medical leave, civil rights protections, collective bargaining, and wages.

Tennessee OSHA to adopt upcoming changes for tracking workplace injuries and illnesses

The new controversial recordkeeping rule, which takes effect January 1, 2017, requires certain employers to electronically submit certain injury and illness data, which will be made available to the public. Tennessee OSHA is currently in the process of adopting the new rule and it is anticipated that the rule will be effective by January 1, 2017.

Georgia magistrate recommendation would restrict Regional Emphasis Program aimed at poultry processing facilities

The legality of the Regional Emphasis Program (REP) aimed at poultry processing facilities has been called into question, particularly whether a non-programmed inspection, e.g., one based on a complaint, referral, or report, can be expanded into a full plant-wide investigation. This issue was brought to a head when OSHA attempted to expand an inspection at Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., a poultry processor, from one focused on a report of a workplace accident into an REP inspection focused on numerous potential hazards, and the company refused.

When OSHA sought a warrant, a fact-finding hearing was held and the magistrate judge recommended to the U.S. District Court that OSHA had "probable cause" to investigate four of the 16 hazards because of the accident, but the agency lacked "administrative probable cause" to expand the investigation. The U.S. District Court will make the final ruling.

NIOSH's Engineering Controls Database can help employers reduce risk of workplace illnesses and injuries

NIOSH's new Engineering Controls Database provides information on effective engineering controls that can protect workers by eliminating or reducing hazardous conditions.

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Detailed descriptions of the citations above and other OSHA citations can be found here.