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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts from April 2013.

Recently, Congressional Democrats introduced the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2013, which if enacted would increase the authority of MSHA to regulate the mining industry. Yes, you read that right, increase MSHA's authority, not decrease. You may be thinking to yourself by now, "How is this possible?!?"

Still reacting to the tragic disaster at Upper Big Branch in 2010, MSHA has convinced some of our Representatives that it needs more ...

After two years of uncertainty, employers were finally given some guidance on how to be removed from OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). Employers on the SVEP can expect enhanced follow-up inspections, nationwide inspections of related workplaces, and increased publicity of OSHA enforcement, both within the company and externally. So it comes as no surprise that Companies want to know how to get off the list!

Mine operators have long relied on the protections of a limited liability company ("LLC") status to shield their individual agents from business-related liability. However, based on a decision from the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission (FMSHRC), MSHA can now seek civil and criminal penalties against individual agents of LLC's under Section 110(c) of the Mine Act.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard of OSHA. OSHA's presence is felt by employers across broad segments of American industry, from construction to food service. What many people don't realize, however, is the pervasiveness of OSHA's (older) sister agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.

Medical records are generally considered to be private information--protected from disclosure by federal and/or state law--but that didn't stop the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals from deciding that MSHA has the authority to review miners' medical and personnel records.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) recently released a Final Rule (summary version/full version) that significantly changes the way the Agency charged with protecting America's miners uses one of its most powerful enforcement tools: pattern of violations (POV). Under the Mine Act, MSHA has the authority to issue a pattern of violations notice to mine operators with a pattern of recurrent significant and substantial (S&S) violations.

They may not know it at the time, but workers (and companies) make choices that result in workplace accidents. While there are many contributing factors to workplace accidents, on some level, bad decisions were made.

Recently, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced what many mine operators and independent contractors have experienced for the past several years - a heightened focus on, and tremendous increase in, the number of discrimination complaints filed by MSHA. In fact, MSHA has tripled the number of temporary reinstatement requests and nearly doubled the number of discrimination complaints it filed over a three year period.

Work gloves are so ubiquitous that we may forget that gloves can present as many complex challenges as any type of PPE. The gloves selected may not address site-specific hazards, especially for a mobile workforce, such as construction. Not only does the texture and material affect performance, but so does the way in which the glove works with other PPE and clothing. Some employers find that changing gloves reduces a large number of the minor injuries and strains that plague their workers.

An effective safety process requires consistent discipline to support other company safety efforts, but it doesn’t happen.

OSHA is aggressively suing employers for allegedly using safety rules to terminate employees for reporting workplace injuries. And in fact, it often turns out that almost the only employees terminated for safety violations were those terminated for unsafe behavior after an injury. Why? The employer was sloppy about disciplining employees for unsafe behavior, and the only time the employers “caught” employees acting unsafely was… investigating the injury.

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