Happy Hump Day to you,

HILL HEARING ON OSHA REFORM: Yesterday Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels testified in support of the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 legislation before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor.

The “Miner” title tells only half the story. Game-changing increases to OSHA penalties and expansion of criminal prosecution capabilities are already drawing flak from business groups, and applause from labor unions.

The real battle in this bill will center on the OSHA elements, not MSHA.

So what happens next?

Says Aaron Trippler, government affairs direction of the American Industrial Hygiene Association: “The bill will probably be enacted in the House, notwithstanding the fact there will be considerable opposition. The question is can it make its way through the Senate? This is where the opposition has a better chance of stopping the bill.

“Congress is scheduled to remain in Washington until August 9 when it takes its scheduled summer recess that will last until after Labor Day. When lawmakers return in September they are scheduled to work until around mid-October and then recess for the November elections. While they are likely to return after the election for a “lame duck” session, few serious issues will be voted on during that time.

“What this means is that Congress has only 30-40 days of session scheduled to enact legislation. Difficult!


Instead of Capitol Hill, call it hazard hill, according to a report issued this week by the Office of Compliance, which is responsible for protecting the congressional workplace.

According to the report: “The Capitol and other congressional buildings are rife with fire traps and other pervasive problems of age and dangerous design, with an estimated 6,300 safety hazards lurking on Capitol Hill this Congress.”

Investigators found that a quarter of the hazards are potentially fatal or could leave victims with serious injuries. Antique, open stairwells could create a deadly smoke funnel, preventing employees from escaping the Russell Senate Office Building in the event of a fire or terrorist attack.

The Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building lacks adequate exit stairwells. The Capitol itself has structural defects that leave it inadequate to stop the spread of smoke and toxic fumes.

Get this: Workplace safety experts say that if Congress were a private-sector business, it would be at risk for massive OSHA fines.

BUT… Congress conveniently exempted itself from key parts of federal workplace law. Congress is not required to keep records of injuries, death or hazardous exposure on the job.

SO… while Congress this week debates serious OSHA reform legislation, it doesn’t practice what it preaches. The cost of correcting hazards is one reason Congress has let them linger for years.

And lawmakers are up in arms over BP’s cost-cutting…


EPA, the Justice Department, and the states of Alabama and Iowa announced today that McWane Inc., a national cast iron pipe manufacturer headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., has agreed to pay $4 million to resolve more than 400 violations of federal and state environmental laws. The settlement, filed in federal court today, covers 28 of McWane’s manufacturing facilities in 14 states and also requires the company to perform seven environmental projects valued at $9.1 million.

The settlement resolves civil violations over the past decade of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as alleged by the United States, Alabama, and Iowa in the complaint.

As part of the settlement, the United States also required McWane to develop and implement a corporate-wide environmental management system (EMS) to promote environmental compliance, achieve pollution prevention and enhance overall environmental performance. The EMS was implemented prior to today’s filing and is now complete. The agreement now requires McWane to conduct an audit of the EMS to evaluate the adequacy of the system. In addition, McWane has modified its corporate-wide stormwater pollution prevention plan and will develop or upgrade facility-specific plans as part of the agreement.

SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS to be required for off-shore oil rigs…

The Department of the Interior announced Monday that it plans to pursue a systems-based approach to offshore oil and gas drilling operations in Federal waters.

Coming (relatively) soon: Stronger requirements to improve organizational safety management for companies operating offshore drilling rigs.

New rules requiring that offshore operators have in place a comprehensive, systems-based approach to safety and enviro management.

Hmmm… will Interior check in with OSHA, in the midst of drafting an injury and illness prevention program (I2P2) that will require employers to create a plan for finding and fix hazards, and then implement the plan? Workers will partake in drawing up the plan, and evaluating its effectiveness.