OSHA Workplace Exposure Limits Deemed “Not Safe Enough”: More Enforcement on the Way

Nearly 30 years ago, OSHA attempted a comprehensive overhaul of its chemical workplace exposure rules, but this effort was halted by several legal challenges.  Since that time, OSHA has only adopted a handful of new chemical workplace exposure standards.

In late Fall 2013 the OSHA Administrator, Dr. David Michaels, publicly announced that “[o]ur workplace exposure limits are dangerously out-of-date . . . and do not adequately protect workers.”  In addition, OSHA has posted on its website an annotated table of exposure limits that include recommendations from third-party organizations that are much lower than the legal limits for many chemicals.

Worker safety advocates have argued that OSHA should use these recommendations and the general-duty standard to protect workers at exposure levels below the legal limits.  The general-duty standard can be used by OSHA in an enforcement action if a given hazard is well known and an employer fails to protect workers from the hazard.

In a recent enforcement action, OSHA cited a Wisconsin company pursuant to the general-duty standard for allowing exposures in excess of a recommended limit, even though the exposures were below the legal permissible exposure limit (PEL).  Specifically, the company exceeded a recommended NIOSH exposure limit of 50 ppm for styrene with workplaces exposures of 65 ppm.  Even though the OSHA PEL for styrene is 100 ppm, OSHA relied on the general-duty standard and concluded that the company should have known that workplace exposures to styrene above 50 ppm posed hazards to workers.  The company is in the processing of challenging OSHA’s citations in this case.

NASF and other industry groups are concerned that OSHA is trying to enforce more stringent workplace exposure standards without formally and legally revising the applicable PEL through a rulemaking process.  Under this approach, companies that meet applicable PELs may be liable for potential violations of OSHA rules if a lower standard is recommended by a third-party, even though OSHA has not officially recognized and adopted that standard.

NASF will continue to monitor this enforcement action and OSHA’s future use of the general-duty standard to enforce third-party workplace exposure standards.  If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this issue, please contact Jeff Hannapel at jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com.

Posted in Law & Regulation | Tagged ,

EPA’s Draft Stormwater Permit Comes with Unjustified High Costs for Finishing Industry

The EPA recently issued a draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Industrial Sources, also referred to as the Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP). This action is intended to revise and renew the 2008 MSGP. In response to the draft MSGP, NASF submitted comments December 26, 2013 regarding its concerns about the draft MSGP and its potential impact on surface finishing operations.

Pursuant to the terms of the draft MSGP, surface finishing operations must develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) and implement available best management practices (BMPs) to control stormwater discharges at their facilities. Facilities are also required to sample stormwater discharges to determine if the benchmark values for pollutants have been exceeded. Facilities that exceed benchmark values must evaluate their BMPs and identify and implement additional BMPs for controlling stormwater discharges or prepare a feasibility report to show that all technically feasible BMPs have been implemented and further improvements are not feasible.

The problem with the draft MSGP is that the benchmark values that EPA uses for several metals and other pollutants are unrealistically low and do not represent levels that can be achieved in practice with the implementation of available BMPs. Consequently, surface finishing facilities will have to undertake unnecessary procedural steps to address exceedances of the benchmark values as part of the MSGP process. These efforts can be expensive to implement and can lead to other potential compliance and permitting impacts for their facilities. Specifically, the compliance costs for industrial operations are significantly more than EPA’s estimated annual compliance cost of approximately $2,000 to implement the requirements of the 2013 draft MSGP.

In its comments NASF argues that the benchmark values that EPA is using for stormwater discharges are unrealistically low and cannot be achieved in practice at surface finishing operations and urges EPA to reconsider the substantial costs and significant potential adverse impacts of the draft MSGP. EPA is expected to finalize the MSGP for stormwater discharges in Spring 2014. If you have any questions regarding EPA’s draft MSGP or the NASF comments, please contact Jeff Hannapel at jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com.

Posted in Law & Regulation | Tagged , ,

NASF Management Conference: February 23-27, 2014

Registration is still open for the annual NASF Management Conference to be held February 23-27, 2014 at the Sheraton Maui on Kaanapali Beach. The event offers timely updates and the opportunity to engage with owners and executives from some of the most successful and influential companies in the surface technology community.

Robert O'Neill

The keynote for the event is Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, one of the most highly decorated combat veterans of our time. Having led military’s top elite and with most of his career shrouded in a classified cloak, O’Neill is one of the quiet professionals who has performed extremely difficult tasks in difficult circumstances.

He brings unique expertise to organizations and translates his elite SEAL team training into high-impact, actionable insights on leadership, decision-making, operating in uncertain environments, and how to become the ‘best of the best.’ His mantra is “never quit,” and O’Neill believes this is the single most important factor in determining success. A family man, O’Neill reminds us that the servicemen doing the dirtiest work are often making the hardest sacrifices.

We look forward to having you join us. For More information visit NASFmanagementconference.com

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NASF Washington Forum Brings Back Top Keynotes Charlie Cook and Andy Friedman: April 8-10, 2014

Charlie Cook

Top Pundit Charlie Cook Talks 2014 Elections

The NASF is proud to again present Charlie Cook as the Washington Forum’s keynote speaker. Editor and Publisher of the Cook Political Report and a political analyst for National Journal magazine, Charlie Cook applies his encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, memorable stories, quick wit, and meaningful insights to deliver a dynamic speech.

Using poll numbers, economic indicators, and historical data, Cook will forecast the fortunes of each party in a balanced, nonpartisan manner and furnish the Washington Forum audience with the concrete information they need to hear about today’s political and legislative environments.

The New York Times has called Cook “one of the best political handicappers in the nation” and David Broder of the Washington Post has said Cook is “perhaps the best non-partisan tracker of Congressional races.”

In its feature, “The Top 50 Journalists in Washington,” The Washingtonian called him a “master observer” and “the man who knows more about everything political than anyone else.”

Andrew Friedman

Andy Friedman is back to Speak on the Budget Deficit, Tax Policy and Business Legislation

Back by popular demand, the NASF again welcomes Andy Friedman, as a second keynote for the Washington Forum. An expert on political affairs, Andy is known for predicting the outcomes of Washington tax and fiscal deliberations and providing strategies for businesses and investors to consider in light of the changing political landscape. Andy was a senior partner with the law firm of Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., where he practiced for almost 30 years, serving as head of the tax and corporate groups.

Andy also served as tax counsel to Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League.

Andy appears on CNBC’s Squawk Box, which calls him “Wall Street’s Tax Expert.” He also has appeared on the Fox Business Channel, has been profiled in the Washington Post and Research

Magazine, and is quoted extensively in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to USA Today.

For more information, visit NASFwashingtonforum.com

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Register for the Annual Connecticut Chapter Metal Finishing Table Top Exhibition

The NASF Connecticut Chapter is pleased to extend to your company an invitation to exhibit at its Annual Connecticut Chapter Metal Finishing Table Top Exhibition. This year, the Metal Finishing Table Top Exhibition will be held at the Manor Inn Restaurant in the Plantsville section of Southington, CT on Thursday, March 13, 2014; at the Chapter’s March meeting. It will be an opportunity to meet with old friends and to kick-off the 2014 sales year by making new contacts in an ideal, inexpensive and relaxed setting. Vendors will exhibit in a Table Top format to plating supervisors, plant managers, purchasing agents and other qualified metal finishing personnel or people who require metal finishing services from some of the top companies in Connecticut and the surrounding region.

Posted in Events, NASF Chapters