A New OSHA Interpretation: Union Representatives Can Accompany OSHA Inspector at a Non-Union Worksite

OSHA is startling employers with a new “Interpretation Letter” that departs from 40 years of practice and expands the rights of non-employees and union representatives during the walkaround portion of an OSHA inspection at non-union workplaces.

In a recently released letter, which NASF members discussed at the Washington Forum in April with U.S. Chamber of Commerce Labor Policy Director Marc Freedman, OSHA responded to a United Steelworker safety representative who asked:

“whether workers at a workplace without a collective bargaining agreement may authorize a person who is affiliated with a union or a community organization to act as their representative under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). This would include “representing the employee(s) as a personal representative” and “accompanying the employee on an OSHA inspection” in a non-unionized workplace.”

OSHA answered, in part:

“The OSH Act authorizes participation in the walkaround portion of an OSHA inspection by “a representative authorized by [the employer’s] employees.”…. Therefore, a person affiliated with a union without a collective bargaining agreement or with a community representative can act on behalf of employees as a walkaround representative so long as the individual has been authorized by the employees to serve as their representative. This right, however, is qualified by the Secretary’s regulations, which allow OSHA compliance officers (CSHOs) to exercise discretion over who participates in workplace inspections.”

The new letter disavowed and withdrew a 2003 Interpretation Letter suggesting that the OSHA law imposed more restrictions on non-employee involvement in inspections than OSHA’s new interpretation.

Many employers are just beginning to hear about the new interpretation and are concerned about the implications of the letter. But legal and safety experts are stating the obvious – that outside organizations or unions will be allowed to hijack the workplace safety process for reasons wholly unrelated to protecting workers.

NASF members who would like a copy of the complete OSHA Interpretation Letter, please email Christian Richter at The Policy Group at crichter@thepolicygroup.com.

Posted in Law & Regulation | Tagged ,

Nickel Regulation and NASF Action: Interim Success through Collaboration

NASF continues to work closely on advocacy efforts to ensure that US and global regulatory bodies make responsible and scientifically-informed decisions on materials uses for a range of coatings processes. One way the association has advanced the industry’s position is through its Strategic Partnership with the Nickel Institute.

Closer collaboration between the two organizations as well as with European-based plating organizations has assisted in impacting decisions in one part of the world that ultimately get picked up the by U.S., either through regulation or through procurement policies by global OEMs that impact the entire supply chain regardless of geography. As the European Union has reviewed stricter hazard classifications and restrictions or bans on nickel compounds, U.S. regulators at EPA, OSHA and some states have also considered changes to existing requirements or ratcheted down standards.

The good news on the nickel front is that NASF’s collaboration with the Nickel Institute and other European plating and finishing associations has resulted in a decision to delay the European Union’s consideration of restrictions for key nickel compounds used in plating.
Emerging Review of Nickel Compounds for Finishing

Recently, ANSES, the French regulatory agency responsible for environment and occupational safety, in lieu of formally nominating nickel compounds for restrictions under REACH, has undertaken an analysis of so-called “Risk Management Options (RMO)” for a selected number of nickel containing chemicals. ANSES had been mandated by the French Ministry of Environment (REACH Competent Authorities) to perform a RMO analysis on 12 nickel containing chemicals.

In addition to needing various information on hazard, emission and exposure data for nickel compounds for surface finishing, the French government and other interested agencies also required an analysis of uses and a detailed evaluation of volumes used for various sectors. This analysis is intended to fill in data gaps and inform discussions on the impacts of banning or restricting nickel compounds in plating.
NASF Resources and Tools will Inform the Review

In addition to informing the U.S. and European discussions of nickel with key diagrams of nickel coatings uses in automotive, aerospace and now mobile phones (available to NASF members), the NASF just completed a joint report with the Nickel Institute that provided important data to analyze the mass flow of nickel compounds in finishing. A copy of the report is available for NASF members by contacting Christian Richter at crichter@thepolicygroup.com. Future reports to educate decision makers in the U.S. and Canada will be underway in the coming year as well.

For the preparation of the report, the NASF thanks its key author, Dr. Keith Legg of Rowan Technology, along with critical participation and technical contributions from NASF Supplier Members Atotech (Bill Krenz), Coventya (Brad Durkin), Enthone (Brian DeWald) and MacDermid (Mike Barnstead).
Next Steps

Among the next steps in the RMO process will be to continue answering the technical questions of the ANSES and to fill in the remaining data gaps for two key substances (Nickel oxide and Nickel sulphate) which have been formally selected for an RMO analysis in 2013. Depending on the outcome of the exercise, the remaining nickel containing chemicals listed in the introduction could also be reviewed by the ANSES in 2014.

The work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013 and the French authorities plan to consult the different stakeholders, including environmental organizations and others, on the outcome of the RMO.

The NASF will continue to be an important technical, scientific and policy resource in the collaboration.

Posted in Government Relations | Tagged , ,