Regulatory Agenda Offers Brief Glimpse into Trump Administration’s Plan
On July 20, 2017, federal agencies released their regulatory agendas. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offered fourteen items. The agenda items ranged from seemingly minor issues, such as correcting typographical errors to reduce burdens on employers— to tackling larger concerns weighing on the mind of companies. The delay and revision of the “electronic record-keeping rule” and a proposed change to the “Lock-Out/Tag-Out” standard are two interesting items on the agenda that give some insight into the regulatory plan of the Trump administration.
The new administration announced its intention to delay and revise the “electronic record-keeping rule”. The Obama era “electronic record-keeping rule” required employers to electronically report workplace injuries and illnesses in a data collection system. An undesirable result of this regulation for many employers is that employer injury data would be available to the public. Additionally, the rule contained anti-retaliation provisions that could effectively terminate some safety incentive programs, as well as post-injury discipline and post-injury drug testing.
Many employers may be pleased to discover that the agenda indicated that the new administration postponed the deadline to submit workplace injuries and illnesses from July 1, 2017 until December 1, 2017. Furthermore, the “electronic record-keeping rule” will be reconsidered in October 2017. This delay provides the Trump administration an opportunity to revise the rule, and allows employers to further review the electronic reporting requirements.
Employers expecting sweeping deregulations from the Trump administration may be surprised to discover the Standards Improvement Project-Phase IV (SIP-IV) regulations on the agenda. The SIP-IV regulations included the Obama administration’s “Lock-Out/Tag-Out” standard, which proscribed procedures for disabling machinery to ensure the safety of employee’s engaged in service and maintenance activities.
The Obama era standard sought to resolve conflicting applications of the rule to “unexpected energization” of equipment. The SIP-IV revision proposed removing the word “unexpected” from the phrase, “servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the [unexpected] energization or start-up of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy could harm employees.” Removal of the term “unexpected” would mean that the “Lock-Out/Tag-Out” standard could apply to all equipment maintenance involving stored energy hazard, which would broaden the scope in which companies must apply the standard.
Though SIP-IV remains on the regulatory agenda, it was accompanied by a new, seemingly flexible, “Lock-Out/Tag-Out” standard. The Trump administration’s proposed standard takes into account recent technological advancements—specifically computer-based controls of hazardous energy—that conflict with the current “Lock-Out/Tag-Out” standard. The Trump administration is prepared to examine the increasingly prevalent technology to determine its potential hazards and limitations. This is an important consideration because other countries have already updated their “Lock-Out/Tag-Out” standards to accommodate the technological changes, and it may be beneficial to harmonize the United States standard to be compatible on an international scope.
While the agenda provides some insight into the Trump administration’s agenda, many questions are left unanswered. Considering that an OSHA administrator has not yet been named, the agenda only offers a brief glimpse into the new administration’s plans. Employers will have to wait a while longer for a clearer picture to crystalize. For a full list of the items on the agenda you can visit the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs website at reginfo.gov.by