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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts from August 2013.

As I started typing about “Google Glass,” that 80”s song by Hall and Oates began to torment me over and over again …

Private Eyes
they're watching you
they see your every move
Private Eyes
they're watching you
Private Eyes
they're watching you watching you watching you watching you

Readers already know to take photos whenever an OSHA Compliance Officer takes shots, and a few other standard labor lawyer recommendations, but I’d like to take a moment to talk about “why” we urge employers to take certain steps before and during an OSHA inspection.

After a more contentious meeting during the Congressional Field Hearing, MSHA agreed to meet with the mining industry in a less formal setting to discuss ideas to build a better partnership between the Agency and the industry. On Thursday, August 22, 2013, members of the North Carolina Aggregates Association (NCAA), Mining Association of South Carolina (MASC), and Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA) met with Marvin Lichtenfels, Acting Administrator for Metal/Non-Metal, Sam Pierce, Acting District Manager for SE District (until September), and Doniece Schlick, Acting District Manager for SE District (beginning in September). There were many great ideas proposed at the meeting, some of which MSHA has agreed to consider and/or implement in the near future.

Employers are not guilty until proven innocent. Napoleonic justice is not the law of the land. To make out an OSHA citation, OSHA has the burden to prove four (4) elements: an applicable standard, that a hazard existed, an employee was exposed, and that the employer knew, or should have known of the violation.

MSHA issued a new Program Policy Letter on August 13, 2013, clarifying that mine operators that comply with OSHA's HazCom Standard are also in compliance with MSHA's HazCom Standards, found at Part 47. Part 47 requires that mine operators identify chemicals, make a hazard determination, ensure that containers of hazardous chemicals have labels, have and make available a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical used or produced at the mine, and instruct miners on the physical and health hazards of the chemicals in the miners' work area, protective measures, and contents of the HazCom program.

Despite the DOL’s continuous promotion of whistleblower/retaliation claims, I don’t believe that employers appreciate the sheer variety of ways in which disgruntled employees can claim that the employer retaliated against him for complaining or raising issues related to safety, environmental, wage-hour, discrimination, or numerous other subjects.

Despite having handled nearly 500 workplace fatalities, I once found myself hanging three stories from a gutter because I had wedged a piece of firewood under my ladder rather than taking five minutes to properly set it. Why does a skilled person with awareness of the dangers of cutting corners nonetheless take unnecessary risks?

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