Occupational Safety and Health

New York Officially Lifts Travel Quarantine Requirement for Domestic Travelers

April 1, 2021

By Adam P. Mastroleo

On April 1, 2021 the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) officially updated its Interim Guidance for Quarantine Restrictions on Travelers Arriving in New York State to remove the quarantine requirement for domestic travelers arriving in New York State from other U.S. States or territories. This updated guidance document has been anticipated since Governor Cuomo announced on March 11, 2021, that the domestic traveler quarantine requirement would be lifted on April 1. 

Read More >> New York Officially Lifts Travel Quarantine Requirement for Domestic Travelers

New York Department of Labor Issues Guidance on Paid Leave for COVID-19 Vaccinations 

March 30, 2021

By Mary E. Aldridge

On March 12, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed a new law that grants paid leave to employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Under the statute, employees may take up to four hours of paid time off per vaccine injection. A link to our prior post discussing the statute is available here

Read More >> New York Department of Labor Issues Guidance on Paid Leave for COVID-19 Vaccinations 

The COVID-19 Pandemic: Recommendations for Employers

March 16, 2020

By Monica C. Barrett and Subhash Viswanathan

The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused severe disruption to many businesses across the country. Employers will be required to continue to monitor developments and adjust to changing circumstances in the coming weeks and possibly months. We provide the following recommendations for employers in dealing with the many employment-related issues that will inevitably arise.

Read More >> The COVID-19 Pandemic: Recommendations for Employers

OSHA Issues Proposed Rule on Electronic Recordkeeping Requirements

August 20, 2018

By Richard C. White

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would rescind the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries or Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report).  The proposed rule leaves in place the requirement for such establishments to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses).  The proposed rule also requires these establishments to submit their Employer Identification Number (EIN) electronically along with their data submissions.

Read More >> OSHA Issues Proposed Rule on Electronic Recordkeeping Requirements

An Update on OSHA’s Electronic Injury and Illness Reporting Rules

July 18, 2017

By Michael D. Billok

We have received a number of questions about the current status of OSHA’s new electronic injury and illness reporting rule, upon which we have previously reported here and here.  There is, yet again, more to report!

First things first:  the implementation date of the rule has been delayed from July 1, 2017, to December 1, 2017.  The reason for the delay is to give the new administration an opportunity to determine whether any changes to the rule are warranted as well as to give employers time to familiarize themselves with electronic reporting.  The Department of Labor did seek additional comments as part of the process.  We will keep you posted regarding any further delays in the implementation of, or changes to, the rule.

Second, the rule will likely go into effect in some form:  OSHA announced that its website at which employers can submit their Form 300A electronically will be live as of August 1 here.  All employers must submit their 2016 Form 300A via the website before December 1, 2017.

What is the Current Status of OSHA's Injury and Illness Reporting Rule?

February 20, 2017

By Michael D. Billok

As we previously reported on this blog, OSHA recently made sweeping changes to its injury and illness reporting rule.  The agency delayed enforcement of the rule until December 1, 2016.  Many industry advocates were hoping for a reprieve, and several industry groups, including the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Manufacturers, had filed suit, seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect.  Unfortunately, the injunction was denied and the rule did go into effect on December 1.  However, the rule is still being challenged.  Interestingly, the incoming administration recently jointly filed a letter with the court along with the plaintiffs, stating that each side planned to move for summary judgment, strongly suggesting that the incoming administration has no plans to revise or revoke the rule. One of the more troubling aspects of the rule was not in the rule itself, but in the preamble to the rule -- OSHA's stated position that it would consider blanket rules that require drug testing of employees after any accident to be unreasonable, i.e., to discourage the reporting of injuries and illnesses.  Without announcement, OSHA issued guidance on its position late last year that should ameliorate employers’ concerns.  Simply put, employers do not have to have reasonable suspicion of drug use, but reasonable suspicion that drug use could have led to the accident causing illness or injury.  OSHA provides the following examples: "Consider the example of a crane accident that injures several employees working nearby but not the operator.  The employer does not know the causes of the accident, but there is a reasonable possibility that it could have been caused by operator error or by mistakes made by other employees responsible for ensuring that the crane was in safe working condition.  In this scenario, it would be reasonable to require all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the accident to take a drug test, whether or not they reported an injury or illness.  Testing would be appropriate in these circumstances because there is a reasonable possibility that the results of drug testing could provide the employer insight on the root causes of the incident.  However, if the employer only tested the injured employees but did not test the operator and other employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident, such disproportionate testing of reporting employees would likely violate section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv). Furthermore, drug testing an employee whose injury could not possibly have been caused by drug use would likely violate section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv).  For example, drug testing an employee for reporting a repetitive strain injury would likely not be objectively reasonable because drug use could not have contributed to the injury.  And, section 1904.35(b)(1)(iv) prohibits employers from administering a drug test in an unnecessarily punitive manner regardless of whether the employer had a reasonable basis for requiring the test." So, if an employee on a scaffold dropped a piece of lumber, striking an employee below in an area the employee was allowed to walk, it would not be proper to test the employee below, but it would be proper to test the employee on the scaffold, because operator error -- and possible drug impairment -- could have contributed to the accident. It still remains to be seen whether this rule will be rescinded through the Congressional Review Act or vacated through the lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Texas, but in the meantime, employers should make sure their policies regarding injury and illness reporting comport with the new requirements.

OSHA Announces Feral Cats Are Not Vermin

October 13, 2016

By Patrick V. Melfi
On October 4, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a press release and announced that it was proposing changes to 18 separate regulations “as part of an ongoing effort to revise provisions in its standards that may be confusing, outdated or unnecessary.”  A summary of the proposed changes can be accessed here.  The proposals run across a wide spectrum from the technical (i.e., allowing ex-rays to be maintained in digital format); to the procedural (i.e., making the process safety management standard the same for construction and general industry); to the completely understandable (i.e., eliminating any uses of employee social security numbers in exposure monitoring); to the somewhat odd (i.e., eliminating feral cats from the definition of “vermin” in the shipyard equipment regulation).  On the last point, the agency press release noted that “OSHA recognizes that feral cats pose a minor, if any, threat, and tend to avoid human contact, and OSHA proposes to remove the term ‘feral cats’ from the definition of vermin in the standard.”  The deadline for submitting comments to any of the proposals is December 5, 2016.

OSHA Penalties Increased in the Heat of August

August 9, 2016

By Michael D. Billok
Last November, we issued an update alerting readers of this blog that in last fall’s budget bill, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had been given authorization to increase its penalties by up to 82%, to account for inflation for several decades.  In order to implement the increase, OSHA had to issue an interim final rule by July 1 that would go into effect by August 1.  As expected, OSHA has indeed taken advantage of this authorization to increase its penalties. As of August 1, OSHA’s new maximum penalty structure is as follows:
  • Other-than-Serious violation:  increased from $7,000 to $12,471;
  • Serious violation:  increased from $7,000 to $12,471;
  • Repeat violation:  increased from $70,000 to $124,709;
  • Willful violation:  increased from $70,000 to $124,709; and
  • Failure-to-Abate violation:  increased from $7,000 to $12,471 per day.
These penalties are a significant increase, and when these new maximum penalties are combined with OSHA’s new enforcement priorities, they may result in citations with total penalty amounts that are higher than previously common.

Employers Need to Develop an Action Plan to Deal With Workplace Violence

May 21, 2016

By Katherine R. Schafer

If the recent and tragic shootings at an office holiday party in San Bernardino, California, and at a lawn care company in Kansas have taught us anything, it is that these unfortunate incidents of workplace violence are becoming more and more commonplace.  In addition to the devastating human cost of these tragedies, workplace violence can also bring significant liability for employers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace violence is responsible for $55 million in lost wages each year.  When the cost of lost productivity, legal expenses, property damage, diminished public image, and increased security are factored in, workplace violence costs the American workforce approximately $36 billion dollars per year. Among other sources of potential liability, employers may be cited by OSHA for violating the “General Duty Clause” of the OSH Act, which requires employers to maintain workplaces free from “recognized hazards” that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.  OSHA has previously published guidance citing certain types of workplace violence as recognized hazards for “heightened-risk industries,” which include healthcare and social services, late-night retail establishments, and taxi and for-hire drivers.  But an employer in any industry may be considered to have a recognized hazard of workplace violence based on factors like previous incidents, employee complaints, injury and illness data, prior corrective actions, and its own safety rules and policies. Last month, Bond attorneys presented a breakfast briefing on workplace violence at 12 locations across the state, providing guidance on developing an action plan to address workplace violence, identifying the potentially violent employee, and best practices for responding to an incident of violence in the workplace.  To avoid liability and prevent the unthinkable, employers should start taking steps to develop a workplace violence prevention program.

OSHA Makes Sweeping Changes to its Illness and Injury Reporting Rule -- What this Means for Employers

May 12, 2016

By Michael D. Billok
Most employers traditionally have had little to no interaction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency tasked with overseeing workplace safety.  Unless they were inspected by OSHA -- and the 35,820 inspections conducted in FY 2015 pales in comparison to the tens of millions of employers across the country -- most businesses, particularly smaller businesses, may have gone for many years without interacting with the agency.  But that is about to change. Currently, most employers other than those in partially-exempt industries are required to maintain injury and illness reporting records on a log (OSHA Form 300), with supporting documentation (OSHA Form 301, or other equivalent document such as workers compensation records).  Each employer then summarizes that information each year onto OSHA Form 300A, which the employer then posts at the workplace from February 1 to April 30.  Other than serious injuries such as amputations, fatalities, or accidents requiring hospitalization, which require more immediate reporting, employers have not been required to submit injury and illness data to OSHA.  Now, however, many businesses will have to submit injury and illness information periodically to OSHA electronically.  Not only that, but OSHA also will post this information online. The reporting changes affect businesses depending on their size and classification:
  • Businesses with 250 or more employees.  These businesses will have to submit the annual summary form 300A electronically by July 1, 2017; submit the Forms 300, 301, and 300A electronically by July 1, 2018; and then submit Forms 300, 301, and 300A by March 2 annually thereafter.
  • Businesses with 20-249 employees in “high-hazard” industries.  OSHA has compiled a long list of high-hazard industries, including but not limited to hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, agriculture, utilities, construction, manufacturing, grocery stores, department stores, transportation companies, that must also submit information electronically if they have 20-249 employees, albeit less information than larger businesses.  These businesses need only submit Form 300A by July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, and then continue submission of Form 300A each year by March 2 thereafter.
In determining business size, the final rule states:  “each individual employed in the establishment at any time during the calendar year counts as one employee, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers.” OSHA claims that Personally Identifiable Information will be removed before the data it receives is released on its web site, but OSHA’s stated reliance on software to perform this function has raised concerns with employers and privacy advocates alike.  Also, it is unclear as to what form OSHA’s online publication will take, and how third parties may seek to utilize this information. The above rule revisions represent a sea change in employers’ interaction with OSHA regarding injury and illness reporting.  But OSHA did not stop there.  OSHA also published changes in its final rule, effective August 10, 2016, that affect all employers, regardless of size:
  • Employers must establish a “reasonable” procedure for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses, and inform employees of that procedure.  The rule states that “[a] procedure is not reasonable if it would deter or discourage a reasonable employee from accurately reporting a workplace injury or illness.”
  • Employers must inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation.  OSHA has issued a Fact Sheet stating this obligation may be met by posting the “OSHA Job Safety and Health — It’s The Law” poster from April 2015 or later.
  • The rule also adds a provision prohibiting discrimination against an employee for reporting a work-related injury, filing a safety or health complaint, or asking to see the employer’s injury and illness logs.
These provisions have raised additional concerns for employers.  The rule regarding “reasonable” procedures is targeted at employers’ safety incentive plans.  If an employer has a safety incentive plan wherein employees get a bonus, or days off, or an award, if the employee, department, or company has a certain number of days without injury -- so the theory goes -- employees may be hesitant to report injuries and illnesses.  It is precisely these kind of incentive plans the new rule intends to eliminate.  In addition, Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which has certain requirements before OSHA can initiate enforcement action against an employer in federal district court, has been the exclusive provision for employees to make complaints about retaliation for exercising their rights under the Act.  To the extent that OSHA now intends to issue citations against employers under a different process -- and even if an individual employee has not alleged or filed a Section 11(c) retaliation complaint -- this will be another sea change in enforcement. The bottom line is this:  employers with 20 or more employees in “high-hazard” industries, and with 250 or more employees in all industries, will have to report their injury and illness information electronically by July 1, 2017, which will be made available to the public in some form with personally identifiable information about employees removed.  And, all employers, regardless of size, should review their handbooks, safety incentive plans, and incident reporting policies to ensure they provide a “reasonable procedure for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses.”

OSHA Penalties Soon Getting a Boost

November 10, 2015

By Michael D. Billok

Michael Kinsley once said "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth."  And one gaffe that has often been repeated is Speaker Pelosi's statement from 2010, saying about the Affordable Care Act, "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."  There was great truth to that statement, as we are now in an age where the public only finds out what was contained in legislation after it has already been passed. Such as the new 144-page budget deal signed into law last week.  It was made public just before midnight on October 26, and with little debate, passed the House on October 28, the Senate on October 30, and was signed into law by the President on November 2.  And we are now coming to "find out what is in it." Such as a provision allowing OSHA to increase its penalties by up to 82%, to account for inflation since 1990.  OSHA's penalty amounts were previously fixed and not indexed to inflation.  However, the "Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act" tucked into the budget deal not only allows OSHA to begin increasing its penalties annually to account for inflation, but also allows it to implement a "catch up" increase for not raising its penalties for the past quarter century.  If OSHA elects to do so -- and as the sun rises in the east, OSHA will elect to do so -- it must implement an interim final rule by July 1 that will go into effect by August 1. OSHA's current maximum penalties are $7,000 (for other-than-serious and serious violations), and $70,000 (for repeat and willful violations).  Those amounts will likely increase to about $12,500 and $125,000 -- and then increase annually thereafter. For any employer subject to an inspection, whether due to a complaint, referral, emphasis program, or the site-specific-targeting program, the stakes are about to increase.