Due to shifting regulations, 2017 is shaping up to be a year of real uncertainty in the mining and construction industries. For executives and area managers who are simply trying to do their jobs, this uncertainty can be concerning.
We’re going to take a look at four regulations to keep your eyes on so you can stay on the right side of the law in 2017.
How to Navigate the MSHA’s Examination of Working Places Rule
conduct workplace examinations before work begins,
give notification to miners who are affected by hazardous conditions, and
have access to records of when and where examinations were carried out, as well as what conditions were found.
That all sounds fairly straightforward, but a couple of issues remain. First of all, will examinations conducted before someone’s work begins create new challenges?
“Currently, safety examinations must occur sometime during a shift, which could mean at the end of a shift when workers have already spent hours exposed to an undetected hazard,” Kristen Beckman writes at BusinessInsurance.com.
“The new rule specifies that examinations must occur before work begins in an area, but that requirement prompts questions such as how mines that operate multiple or overlapping shifts will schedule examinations.”
The bigger issue, however, is one that will come up a few more times below — will the Trump administration change all of these policies drastically?
“The industry now, with the change in administration, will be in a wait-and-see approach to see what happens,” Jason Nutzman, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl L.L.P., tells Beckman. “There is plenty of time for the Trump administration to pull it back, but it may not be high on their radar, so it may slip through the cracks.”
OSHA Enforcement Will Likely Change Under Trump
One organization that probably will not slip through the cracks is OSHA, which in October proposed 18 changes to its construction, recordkeeping, maritime and general industry standards.
The team at ConstructConnect has an excellent overview of what these changes would entail. Among 15 other changes, these would:
update the Mine Safety Health Administration’s standards on using diesel-powered equipment used underground,
require managers to ensure that cell phones can contact 911 effectively on the worksite,
and revise criteria for ascertaining whether a person’s hearing loss was work-related.
Legal experts, however, believe Trump administration plans for OSHA (which could include funding cuts) will reposition it as an organization that focuses more on compliance assistance and cooperation, not enforcement, Safety+Health’s Tom Musick writes.
Further, Justin M. Reese, assistant VP and senior risk consultant at HUB International, predicts that a 2015 rule allowing OSHA penalties to increase annually to essentially keep pace with inflation might get overturned, or at least undercut in power.
At state and city levels of government, regulatory measures continue to move forward. As Sally Goldenberg and Gloria Pazmino report at Politico, New York’s city council is in the process of introducing several bills that “would require additional safety training, mandate an apprenticeship program, address how fatalities are reported by the Department of Buildings and create a minority workforce task force.”
Where the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Directive Stands
An executive order from President Obama signed in 2014, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule was slated for repeal under President Trump.
That rule would have required contractors bidding on federal projects “to attest to whether they have had violations of the covered labor laws resulting in any ‘administrative merits determinations, civil judgments, or arbitral awards or decisions’ issued within the preceding three years,” the legal team at Littler Mendelson wrote in August. “It has been left to the [Department of Labor] to define the scope of such reportable violations or ‘labor law decisions.’”
Beginning this year, that EO would have required federal contractors and subcontractors to provide wage statements to employees and disclose any violations of 14 specific federal laws from the previous year, attorney Erik Dullea writes at The Contractor’s Perspective. In 2016, a federal district court in Texas hampered the order’s implementation, but now Congress is in a position to do away with it outright.
At the end of January, however, House Republicans introduced a resolution to overturn that EO, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America reports, and on February 2 the House voted 236-187 to overturn the resolution, which means it only now awaits President Trump’s signature for the congressional veto to become enacted.
Where the Directive Requiring Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors Stands
Another EO from the Obama Administration that Republicans are targeting is the Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors order, which would have granted some 1.2 million people access to paid sick leave, AFCEA International says.
“The action arguably will improve the overall health and performance of the work force,” the organization writes. “Those who drag themselves to work coughing and sneezing — and infecting others — now can recuperate at home. The rule also brings the benefits packages of these workers in line with other companies, ensuring that federal contractors remain competitive employers.”
But Joe Davidson at The Washington Post reports President Trump intends to roll back that order, among several others. Those others, Davidson reports, include:
establishment of a $10.10 hourly minimum wage,
prohibitions against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,
and a directive “to maintain Federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions.”
During any administrative turnovers in the White House, there is always some uncertainty in what laws apply and how they will be enforced. During the year, the dust will begin to settle, and some clarity will emerge.
In the meantime, decision-makers in our industry will have their hands full keeping up to date with what rules apply to them.