Let’s face it, regulators gonna’ regulate. And the font of new things to regulate never seems to run dry. Not that everything they do is bad, but keeping up with the changes in EHS rules can be overwhelming. When added to all the other changes in the business world, it’s easy to let them slip off the plate.
So, I recommend that you schedule an annual review of your regulatory obligations to make sure that there is nothing you missed during the year that can affect your operations or your business liability. The constant flow of new rules can catch you unawares, and in the course of just a few years you can find your company completely behind the curve and vulnerable to serious “civil penalties”.
Effects of Non-Compliance
The primary reason to make sure you are current with the regulations is twofold: First, the regulations may require actions that will actually make your workplace safer, your environmental protection efforts more effective, or make your HazMat shipments less risky for the public.
Second, if you get behind in compliance with the regulatory changes, your business may be in jeopardy of significant fines and public embarrassment.
Ignoring or missing a new rule now will begin to have cumulative effects on your compliance as time passes and put your company in a very negative light, should your intransigence come to light and some inspectors come by to see what you are up to.
This year, it is particularly important to make sure everything is in order, because the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act came into effect in August of 2017 and OSHA, EPA and DOT have adjusted their fines upward by 35% to 80%. For example, OSHA’s top penalty for serious violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471 and the maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.
This Year’s Regulatory Enhancements
This article is not all-encompassing. If it were, it would more closely resemble an encyclopedia. I will review some of the more generally applicable rule changes to give you some perspective of the issues. Please note that these initiatives cover only the decrees from the federal level. Each state has their own ideas of how to oversee the affairs of business, and some counties and municipalities add to the burden also.
EPA Regulations: The rule-making gorilla in the room is far and away the EPA.
- Air Quality/Pollution Control. As every year, there were numerous changes and additions to the Clean Air Act. Be it from the perspective of refrigeration technicians, to landfills, to numerous other specific industries, if you have the potential to emit pollutants into the air, there is a regulation for it. This one area sees the most regulatory actions every year and it is super important to stay on top of it.
- Hazardous Waste Management. The new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvement Rule hit the streets in 2017. This is easily the Biggest change in the waste management regulations since the landfill ban of 1980’s. There are some good points and bad points to the HWGIR, but if you generate hazardous waste at any level, the whole game has changed and you need to look into it. This rule is still awaiting adoption in many states. See EPA’s HWGIR Adoption page. • TSCA Regulation of Nonyl Phenols. Another new rule is the requirement for importers and manufacturers to apply to the EPA for “significant new use” of nonyl phenols and nonyl phenol ethoxylates. Upon the review of the application, the EPA can either approve, limit or entirely prohibit the proposed use.
The second prize for rule-making goes to OSHA. It must be a hard job to keep everyone from hurting themselves on the job, so they enacted some more rules to make us safe.
- New Silica Exposure Rule. The Big New Rule of the Year Award goes to the “Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard”. Affecting about 2,000,000 employees, this rule is a huge initiative that is a very significant compliance challenge for employers.
- Walking-Working Surface Update. Another significant expansion of employer requirements is intended to provide protection from slips-trips-(and particularly) fall hazards. Widely applicable to almost every industry, the revisions of this rule will affect a multitude of businesses.
- Workplace Injury Electronic Reporting. There are new requirements for reporting injury and illness reports (the OSHA 300 logs) to the government. Employers with 250 or more employees must submit their 2016 logs this year and from now on by July 2018 (for 2017 logs) and March 2019 for 2018 logs. “High Risk Industries” with 20 to 249 employees, like furniture stores, grocery stores, taxi and limo services, performing arts and gambling companies (I kid you not) must also report electronically on the same schedule. (By the way, the ostensive reason for this rule is to make the injury rates public information and shame companies into being more safe.)
- Beryllium Exposure Standard. Elevated now to the level of regulation like lead and asbestos, the final rule will take effect in May 2018 and will require significant effort to maintain compliance for some industries.
Not to be overlooked is the DOT’s rule-making machine. Usually, they make relatively small changes in obscure corners of the HazMat and Transport world, but this year they deserve honorable mention for launching some of their biggest changes in years
- UN Number Size. Yes, size does matter, especially when it comes to Markings on HazMat packages. Now the 12mm size on non-bulk packages will help keep them safe in case someone needs to wear reading glasses during an emergency.
- Electronic Logging of Hours of Service. As if the HOS rules were not complicated enough, now trucking companies are required to put certified devices in their trucks to keep even closer track of how much shut-eye the drivers are getting.
- Entry-Level Driver Training. Three years after the final rule in March 2017, entry-level operators of Class A or B vehicles, those driving buses, and those with HazMat endorsements will have more extensive training requirements. Each state is given three years to implement new procedures for entering this new requirement into their Commercial Driver’s Licensing Information Systems. • Lithium Battery Shipping. The rules for air shipments of lithium batteries have changed almost every year for the last 5 years. IATA has published the “2017 Lithium Battery Guidance Document” for shippers. It is only 20 pages.
On the Positive Side
For the first time in my memory, industries and businesses may actually need to adjust to lower levels of regulation in some instances.
Yes, the current President of America (Dare I say his name? Yes, it is President Trump) has ordered numerous reviews and stays and outright reversals of some regulations that have beleaguered companies for a long time. We will see in the next year or two how this affects the compliance burdens of the businesspeople of America.
Yes, if you are in business and are subject to any regulations for workplace safety, environmental protection, general transportation or hazardous material shipping, then there are new rules for you to comply with. If you have an Environmental, Health & Safety staff to delegate these responsibilities to, then you have a great advantage. If you are the average businessperson, then you must handle this yourself or hand off the duty to one of your staff who is rather inexperienced and already has 2 or 3 other responsibilities.
But there is an alternative. You can get help.
Attached below is the link to my Quick Compliance Assessment. It will tell you where you stand with the 19 most-frequently cited violations by EPA, DOT and OSHA.