• What to Expect from OSHA in President Obama’s Second Term
  • January 28, 2013 | Author: Bradford T. Hammock
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis LLP - Reston Office
  • As President Barack Obama officially begins his second term in office, it is appropriate to look ahead at what a “second-term” Occupational Safety and Health Administration will mean for employers. To be sure, the future of the Department of Labor is uncertain, with Secretary Hilda Solis stepping down and her successor yet to be named. However, at this time, the leadership at OSHA during the first term of President Obama is still in place. Therefore, at least for now, employers can expect continuity in terms of enforcement and regulatory policy and priorities.

    From an enforcement perspective, employers should continue to expect a vigorous OSHA. The agency has committed significant resources to its enforcement program, along with new national and special emphasis programs, and this focus likely will continue in President Obama’s second term.

    At the same time, employers can expect to see more activity in the regulatory arena. Some specific regulatory initiatives that are primed to move forward and could have significant consequences for employers include:

    Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). OSHA’s IIPP rule has been the agency’s most significant regulatory priority. Although it has been under development for three years, OSHA has indicated that it is ready to begin the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) process for the rule, in which the agency solicits input on the rule from affected small business entities. Employers should remain alert to this agency priority; it is likely to have a broad impact when promulgated.

    Crystalline Silica. The comprehensive regulation of crystalline silica is a particularly significant rulemaking, given how ubiquitous crystalline silica (a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other minerals) is on jobsites. OSHA’s draft proposed rule, which was published in 2002, considered lowering the permissible exposure limit for the substance, implementing extensive “housekeeping” requirements, including prohibiting dry sweeping, requiring exposure monitoring and the establishment of regulated areas, and imposing medical surveillance obligations.

    Stricter Injury and Illness Reporting Obligations. OSHA has proposed requiring employers to report workplace amputations to the agency within 24 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations within eight hours. Existing recordkeeping rules require employers to report in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees to OSHA within eight hours. Any workplace fatality would continue to be reportable as well. In addition, OSHA’s proposed revisions to the recordkeeping rules would change the kinds of establishments that are routinely exempt from recordkeeping obligations.

    Employers should monitor these and other regulatory initiatives closely in the coming months. OSHA is primed to further its enforcement and regulatory priorities in significant ways in President Obama’s second term.