Tales from DC: Latest SBA OSHA/MSHA Roundtable Meeting
The SBA OSHA/MSHA Roundtable Meeting is a good resource for information on directions occupational safety and health regulation is heading. This report is by Adele Abrams, Esq., ASSE’s Federal Representative.
August 9, 2013
On July 26, 2013, I represented ASSE at the bimonthly meeting of the SBA’s OSHA/MSHA Roundtable. It featured presentations by three government personnel: Doug Kalinowski of OSHA, and Tom Cunningham and Matt Gillen of NIOSH, along with a panel of private sector representatives.
Kalinowski, who heads OSHA’s directorate of cooperative and state programs, provided an update in those areas. Kalinowski noted that things either happen fast at the federal level or take forever. He said that despite budget issues, his area is still active and believes building relationships with the private sector is important, although OSHA is looking at whether alliances make a different in changing behavior (something he said needs to be measured). There are currently 63 strategic partnerships, only 2 of which are national in scope. Headquarters creates policy and the regional offices implement it concerning enforcement, alliances, VPP and special government employees. An internal review came up with 30 recommendations and they are working through these.
With respect to the OSHA policy on rate-based incentives, he clarified that executive level bonuses that are linked to injury/illness rates are not covered by the memo and this is not going to be used to bar companies from VPP status. He also discussed the policy of eliminating VPP status for companies that have fatalities (including contractor fatalities) or willful violations and clarified that expulsion will be proposed on the issuance of citations (not after they are finally adjudicated) and if the citations are changed from willful or vacated, the company would have to reapply for VPP status and start over. However, there is an appeal mechanism and they have 30 days to appeal it to the Assistant Secretary, who has the power to rescind the action. There is no further appeal from there.
OSHA still supports its partnership program and wants construction to participate. There can still be enforcement actions under partnerships, however, and all subs on site would have to participate too. He said the on-site consultation program visits have dropped in recent years because of budget cuts. Kalinowski also discussed state programs, including the NJ/NY/CT coverage of public sector workers. He said OSHA and state plan state inspection numbers have remained constant over the years as have the number of issued citations. Evaluation of state plan effectiveness is handled at the regional level and consistency is needed. They are also looking at whether the state plans are handling discrimination claims in a timely manner.
Bruce Lundegren of SBA reviewed the OSHA Regulatory Agenda, which calls for three SBREFA panels on I2P2, Combustible Dust, and Infectious Diseases (in that order). I2P2 will move first as a priority but no dates are set and SBA is still looking for small business representative for these panels. Despite press about the planned July release of the Silica rule, it remains at OMB. OSHA also issued a press release on the cranes/derricks standard, delaying the requirement on certification of operators to 11/10/17 because of issues about type/consistency certification and the fact that some certification bodies do this differently. Other work items on the OSHA regulatory agenda include: confined space in construction, electric power, walking/working surfaces (final rule stage). Long term actions include diacety and the “MSD” column on OSHA logs. Marc Freedman of the US Chamber noted that there is still a congressional rider in place barring OSHA from working on the MSD issue.
The next SBA roundtable is scheduled for September 20, 2013.