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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts from January 2020.

People are increasingly concerned about the Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, but past Coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS caused 774 reported fatalities versus 60,000 due to Seasonal Flu. Equally importantly, most of the steps to prevent the spread of flu apply to the 2019-nCoV. Be creative and robust in your efforts. We have a few suggestions.

No penalty is a good penalty, but many Department of Labor fines just got worse – including those that can be assessed against mining employers. The agency published a final rule that increases the maximum civil penalties that federal agencies can assess against employers. The Federal Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 mandates this automatic increase based upon inflation.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission just concluded that an employer was being untruthful when it claimed that it did not provide advance warning to fellow workers about an imminent mine inspection, taking the extraordinary step of overturning an administrative law judge’s credibility determination and sending a warning to all employers. Yesterday’s decision in Secretary v. KenAmerican Resources upheld a violation of Section 103(a) of the Mine Act, which prohibits any person from giving advance notice of inspections, and offers a lesson about the proper way you should handle such inspections should an investigator descend on your workplace.

The Department of Labor just published its increases to the maximum civil penalties that can be assessed against employers by federal agencies, and it includes some moderate increases in the area of workplace safety. Following an inspection of your workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may issue citations and penalties for alleged violations of the OSH Act. With yesterday’s news, the amount of these penalties you may face will slightly increase from the previous level.

During the final months of 2019, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) advised the mining community that it would pay attention to issues involving contractors working at mine sites, noting a disproportionate number of accidents involving contractor employees. According to information distributed by MSHA, 48% of mining fatalities in 2019 involved employees of contractors even though contractors made up only 25% of the mining workforce. As the New Year begins, MSHA has unveiled an initiative aimed at contractor safety and compliance. That initiative has consequences for both mine operators and contractors.

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