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Proposed update to hazard communications

The proposed rule would modify the hazard communication standard to align it with the seventh revision of the global harmonized system of classification and labeling of chemicals, known as GHS. GHS is an international model regulation for chemical testing, hazard classification, and hazard communication intended to ease trade by establishing a uniform system of chemical labels and safety data sheets (SDSs). It's revised every 2 years and the current hazard communications standard aligns with the third revision.

The proposed standard contains substantive changes for chemical manufacturers and importers, amending the requirements for the labels and SDSs that manufacturers and importers must provide for hazardous chemicals in commerce. There is a new provision for small container labels and the term "combustible dust" has been added to the standard's definitions. The definition proposed is the definition used in Revision 7 of the GHS - "finely divided solid particles of a substance or mixture that are liable to catch fire or explode on ignition when dispersed in air or other oxidizing media." There are also proposed changes to the SDS requirements to address manufacturers' concerns about trade secrets, allowing ranges of concentrations rather than exact numbers.

Comments on the proposed rule are being accepted through April 19, 2021, on the federal e-rulemaking portal.

Reminder: Injury reporting data for certain establishments was due March 2

March 2 was the deadline for establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep injury and illness records, and establishments with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses to submit the Form 300A electronically to OSHA, using the Injury Tracking Application (ITA) on OSHA's website.

If you missed the deadline, the ITA will accept your Form 300A data through the end of the calendar year (December 31). You must electronically submit the data if you are required to do so. There are exceptions, so it's important to review the criteria to determine if you must submit.

Many companies are appealing virus-related safety fines

According to a report from Reuters on February 18, although more than $4M in penalties has been assessed on over 300 employers, only 108 companies had paid a total of $897,000 in fines as of the second week in February. Among the nonpayers are meatpacking giants Smithfield Foods Inc., JBS USA, and packaged foods company Conagra Brands Inc, which have appealed saying the complaints are without merit.

Appeals typically are made by less than 10% of the companies fined. However, more than one-half of the employers cited with virus-related fines have appealed. During the appeals, which can be lengthy, companies don't have to pay fines and aren't required to fix the cited problems. Appeals are made before administrative judges at the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), an independent agency that reviews contested OSHA citations.

The fines for virus-related violations have been relatively small, averaging about $13,000, which for larger companies could be considered "pocket-change." However, accepting the fines could open the door to wrongful death lawsuits, costly workers' comp claims, future repeat violations that can be over $129,000, and make it difficult to secure government contracts.

More than 80% of companies that paid the pandemic-related citations saw the fines reduced. A Reuters review of violations data shows the reduced COVID-19 fines dropped an average of 46%, to $7,411, from an initial average of $13,760.

Scope of whistleblower retaliation claims expands

Whistleblower complaints will now be investigated under two new statutes. The Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act covers individual complaints alleging retaliation for reporting antitrust violations to managers or the federal government or for assisting with an investigation or proceeding related to antitrust law violations. The Anti-Money Laundering Act involves individual whistleblower retaliation complaints for reporting money laundering-related violations to their superiors or the federal government or participating in investigations related to a possible violation of anti-money laundering laws. Until interim final rules are issued, the whistleblower complaints related to these statutes will be processed using standardized procedures developed for AIR21 (the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century).

National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction - May 3 - 7, 2021

Recognizing that falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction employees, workplaces are encouraged to stand-down by taking a break to focus on "Fall Hazards" and reinforcing the importance of "Fall Prevention." Companies can conduct a Safety Stand-Down by taking a break to have a toolbox talk or another safety activity such as conducting safety equipment inspections, developing rescue plans, or discussing job-specific hazards. Managers are encouraged to plan a stand-down that works best for their workplace anytime. See Suggestions to Prepare for a Successful "Stand-Down" and Highlights from the Past Stand-Downs. There's also an events page to find events in your area or submit your event details, if open to the public. Employers will be able to provide feedback about their Stand-Down and download a Certificate of Participation following the Stand-Down.

OIG audit of handling of pandemic

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Labor is initiating an audit of OSHA's "operations and efforts related to protecting employees from exposures to COVID-19," according to a Department of Labor memorandum.


Effort to halt COVID-19 standard denied

In National Retail Federation v. California Department of Industrial Relations, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction halting the enforcement of California's COVID-19 standards on businesses. The NRF had argued that the emergency adoption of the standard was not supported by substantial evidence and that the Cal/OSHA did not have the authority to enforce the standard. The judge disagreed, holding that the standards board "properly found that the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an emergency" and that prior guidance was "not sufficient to address" the risk of occupational spread.

Recent fines and awards
COVID-19-related citations


Grandview, Missouri's Peterson Manufacturing Co., operating as Maxi-Seal Harness Systems Inc., has been cited under the general duty clause for failing to maintain safe working conditions after at least six employees of the plant tested positive for COVID-19 and one died as a result. The citation alleges workers were operating presses less than two feet apart without masks. The company faces one serious citation and one other-than-serious violation, and proposed penalties totaling $15,604.

A list of all coronavirus-related issued citations through January 14 can be found here.


As of Feb. 24, 23 employers were cited in February for COVID-19 related violations, bringing the total to over 250 employers. Fines ranged from under $500 to over $396,000.

A Los Angeles McDonald's franchisee was fined $125,913 for workplace retaliation and labor law violations after the Labor Commissioner found that the employer illegally fired four workers for reporting unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.The fines include $45,000 in lost wages, $700 in interest and $80,000 in retaliation penalties. The commissioner also ordered that the franchisee reinstate the workers, remove any negative reference on their personnel files and post information on the citations and violations on the premises, according to the statement.


Fifty-nine more companies, bringing the total to 126 companies, have been cited under the General Duty Clause for COVID-19 related violations, with fines ranging from $0 to $16,800.

For a complete list of citations.

Non-COVID-19-related citations




New York


For information on initial inspections by state.