Acosta To Testify Thursday in Senate on FY 2019 DOL Budget

AcostaSecretary of Labor Alex Acosta will testify before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning regarding the Presidents FY 2019 DOL budget proposal. Unfortunately, the entire Confined Space staff will be busy that morning, so you can watch the hearing live here, or (assuming the video works and the crick don’t rise), we’ll provide our usual summary later that afternoon or the next morning.

This hearing promises to be a bit less contentious that Acosta’s House Appropriations hearing last month because Congress managed to pass language in the FY 2018 Appropriations bill forbidding restaurant employers from stealing their servers’ tips. DOL’s had failed to include an economic analysis in its tipping reg proposal that would have described the potential losses that servers would have faced. Facing widespread public outrage, Acosta claimed that the analysis was too difficult, but he didn’t think employers should steal their employees tips and invited Congress to pass legislation to ensure that. Congress happily obliged.

The only OSHA question at the House hearing addressed OSHA staffing shortages and the hiring freeze imposed by the White House and Acosta.

Since the House hearing, OSHA has submitted its final beryllium changes to OMB that would roll back protections for construction and maritime employees. We don’t know exactly what’s in the final standard, but the proposal kept the Permissible Exposure Limit, but removed the “ancillary provisions” (such as provisions covering exposure monitoring and protective clothing) from the construction and maritime standards.

OSHA also announced last month that it would delay enforcement of the beryllium standard for general industry for two months, condemning 16 workers to death, according to OSHA estimates.

Beryllium disease causes scarring within the lungs, which eventually reduces the lungs’ ability to function.  Symptoms include difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, joint pain, cough and fever. Over time it may lead to disability and death.

Also since the hearing, we have found that a significant number of employers have failed to send their injury and illness information into OSHA as required by the so-called “electronic recordkeeping regulation.” Senators might be interested in what OSHA is going to do about that, and what the fate of the rest of the regulations is. OSHA has been promising to revise the regulation for some time (most like dropping the requirement that employers send in more detailed information later this year), but that proposal seems to be stuck over at OMB.

Finally, OSHA in the last few weeks OSHA has issued a very small fine in response to the deaths of three cell tower workers, and another died recently raising the question of why its taking OSHA so long to get off the ground with its Communications Tower standard and what two worker protections OSHA is planning to remove if that standard goes forward in 2019 as the Presidents proposed budget indicates.

And while they’re at it, they may also want to ask about the fate of OSHA’s infectious disease, process safety management and workplace violence standards.

Alex Acosta Beryllium Budget Regulations and Standards

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