The ABA-OSHA annual Committee Meeting is always one of the best occasions to learn where Fed-OSHA and the State-OSHA Plans are heading. As I type, Jordan Barab, Deputy Assistant Secretary - OSHA is discussing and sort of defending the Fed-OSHA increasing authority over State-Plans, including the recent CASPA against Indiana OSHA. Good stuff comes out of our annual meetings and various articles will be published by publications. If you want brief play-by-play updates as they occur, follow me on Twitter, @howardmavity.
Under OSHA’s Contingency Plan, all but approximately 10% of its employees are furloughed. If one calls an Area Office, you’ll encounter an Area Director and perhaps an Assistant Area Director, who respond to workplace fatalities or complaints of situations threatening a high risk of death or serious injury. In some cases, senior compliance officers may be involved. Similarly, the five or six top managers in each region are working. This skeleton crew not only respond to workplace fatalities, but they must also somehow issue citations within the six months of commencing an inspection. Despite the unusual circumstances, as recently as last year, the powerful D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the six-month requirement in AKM v. Secretary of Labor.
I just learned from Fred Walter at Walter & Prince LLP that Ellen Widess has apparently resigned effective immediately from her position as Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, and is taking another post. No specific reason was given for her resignation. No press release appears to yet be out, but if accurate, this resignation could meaningfully affect the current approach taken by Cal-OSHA.
Former Clinton official Webb Hubbell summed it up well…
There is an old adage in politics and the law that “Bad Facts, Lead to Bad Law.” In law, a horrible fact situation full of sympathy for one side can lead to a Judge or a jury making a poor decision or bad precedent.
In politics a bad or terrible tragedy may lead to sympathetic legislators making a law that seems to redress one inequity, but it has terrible consequences for society.