Due to Low Risk of COVID-19 Surface Transmission, CDC Relaxes Cleaning and Disinfecting Guidance

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Early in the pandemic, popular sentiment—and to a lesser extent, the scientific community—believed that surface transmission of COVID-19 was one of the primary vectors of transmission.  Over time, however, epidemiologists gained a better understanding of how the virus was most typically transmitted.  As a result, the CDC’s guidance evolved to a point where surface transmission was viewed as a less significant mode of transmission than person-to-person transmission.

Throughout all that, spring cleaning took on a new meaning in 2020, as people rushed to purchase all the disinfectant wipes and sprays they could find, wiping down groceries and mail, sanitizing their hands, and treating door handles like they were radioactive.  Workplace sanitation similarly became an area of emphasis as employers distributed wipes, sprays and pump bottles throughout their facilities, hired additional janitorial staff and, in many cases, spent exorbitant sums on third-party vendors to clean and disinfect the workplace, even introducing aggressive surface cleaning techniques like fogging. And once the hygiene frenzy took hold in the workplace, there has been little reprieve for employers from regulatory bodies.  State and local health departments, federal OSHA and State OSH Plans, and even some state legislatures, recommended or imposed strict sanitization protocols, including requirements to routinely wipe down shared surfaces with disinfectant, to close workplaces for deep cleaning even when days had passed since a COVID-positive individual had been in the area, and implement daily cleaning and disinfecting plans.  The financial cost for employers associated with these requirements rose quickly.  Like pre-shift temperature screens, some of these requirements have persisted even after the science has recognized their limited efficacy.

Earlier this week, more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the CDC has released new guidance clarifying that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from contaminated surfaces is, in fact, quite low. Citing several studies evaluating surface transmission, the CDC indicated that the risk of infection through contaminated surfaces is generally less than 1 in 10,000.

The scientific data regarding the very low risk posed by surface contamination is welcome news.  The CDC studies evaluated the effectiveness of prevention measures intended to reduce the risk of surface transmission and found that surface disinfection once or twice-per-day had little impact on reducing risk.  The CDC explained that when accounting for both surface survival data and real-world transmission factors, the risk of surface transmission after a person with COVID-19 has been in an indoor space is minor after 3 days (72 hours), regardless of when it was last cleaned. Continue reading

COVID-19 and MSHA: Best Practices and Compliance Strategies for Mine Operators [Webinar Recording]

On March 18, 2021, Nicholas W. Scala presented a webinar regarding COVID-19 and MSHA: Best Practices and Compliance Strategies for Mine Operators.

CaptureCOVID-19 is, has been, and will continue to be part of every workplace in the nation for the foreseeable future. To this point during the pandemic, MSHA has largely taken a back seat in providing guidance to the nation’s mine operators regarding COVID or attempting to enforce new or existing regulations with respect to COVID-19 in mine. The onus was passed onto mine operators to establish and implement best practices for the workforce. Now, as we enter the Biden Administration, mine operators will still shoulder the responsibility for ensuring workplace safety considerations are put into effect for COVID-19, but also, it is likely that MSHA may take a more active roll. This webinar will review lessons learned and best practices for mine operators regarding COVID-19 in the workplace, while also looking to any new or existing regulatory compliance obligation facing mine operators.

Participants in this webinar learned about the following: Continue reading

Attorney Spotlight – Meet Kara Maciel!

Kara ACFKara Maciel is a founding Partner of Conn Maciel Carey and Chair of the firm’s national labor & employment practice group

Ms. Maciel works to create workplace solutions for her clients.  She counsels clients on issues related to ADA accessibility requirements, wage hour compliance, prevention of harassment and discrimination, effective employment policies and procedures, and developing a compliant employee handbook. She also defends employers in litigation at both the federal and state levels.  For unionized and non-unionized companies, Ms. Maciel provides advice and counsel regarding the employer’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Kara is an avid traveler (pre-pandemic) and foodie, so it makes perfect sense that she focuses much of her practice on issues facing companies in the hospitality industry (including hotel owners and managers, resorts, restaurants, and country clubs); retail; grocery; food distributors; and non-profit sectors.

Get to Know Kara!

Continue reading

OSHA Announces COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

While OSHA is expected today, March 15th, to confirm that it will issue a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), and to get that ETS released within a month, there were also a couple of important developments last week regarding OSHA’s approach to COVID-19 enforcement.

On Friday afternoon, March 12th, OSHA launched a COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (“COVID-19 NEP”) to:

“focus its inspection and enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the virus,” as well as prioritizing employers that “retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.”

This move by OSHA was not unexpected.  As we previously shared, Pres. Biden’s Day-1 OSHA Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety (the same EO that called for the COVID-19 ETS), separately called for OSHA to issue a COVID-19 NEP.

Goals of the COVID-19 NEP

In today’s announcement about the COVID-19 NEP, OSHA explained that “the goal of this NEP is to significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to SARS-CoV-2 by targeting industries and worksites where employees may have a high frequency of close contact exposures and therefore, controlling the health hazards associated with such exposures.”  The NEP includes “an added focus to ensure that workers are protected from retaliation” and are accomplishing this by preventing retaliation where possible, distributing anti-retaliation information during inspections and outreach opportunities, as well as promptly referring allegations of retaliation to the Whistleblower Protection Program.

Industries and Workplaces Covered by the NEP

OSHA also explained that inspections under the COVID-19 NEP will include some follow-up inspections of worksites previously inspected by OSHA in 2020, but principally will focus on establishments in industries identified on targeting lists OSHA will develop now.  The NEP covers a broader set of workplaces than seems consistent with the goals of the NEP.  The directive creates three different lists of covered workplaces – high risk healthcare establishments and high risk non-healthcare establishments (which is how the NEP has been described), and also a third list of “Supplemental Industries for non-Healthcare in Essential Critical Infrastructure” that does not have the same high exposure risk characteristics of the first two lists.  The industries covered by these three lists are included at the bottom of this email.  Area Offices may also “add establishments to the generated master lists based on information from appropriate sources (e.g., local knowledge of establishments, commercial directories, referrals from the local health department, or from other federal agencies with joint jurisdictions, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), media referrals or previous OSHA inspection history).” Continue reading

[Webinar] COVID-19 and MSHA: Best Practices and Compliance Strategies for Mine Operators

On Thursday, March 18th at 1:00 p.m. ET, join Nicholas W. Scala for a webinar regarding COVID-19 and MSHA: Best Practices and Compliance Strategies for Mine Operators.

CaptureCOVID-19 is, has been, and will continue to be part of every workplace in the nation for the foreseeable future. To this point during the pandemic, MSHA has largely taken a back seat in providing guidance to the nation’s mine operators regarding COVID or attempting to enforce new or existing regulations with respect to COVID-19 in mine. The onus was passed onto mine operators to establish and implement best practices for the workforce. Now, as we enter the Biden Administration, mine operators will still shoulder the responsibility for ensuring workplace safety considerations are put into effect for COVID-19, but also, it is likely that MSHA may take a more active roll. This webinar will review lessons learned and best practices for mine operators regarding COVID-19 in the workplace, while also looking to any new or existing regulatory compliance obligation facing mine operators.

Participants in this webinar will learn the following: Continue reading

MSHA Issues Guidance for Mine Operators and Independent Contractors to Mitigate and Prevent Spread of COVID-19

By: Nicholas W. Scala and Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

On March 10, 2021, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”) released additional – and more detailed – COVID-19 guidance.  Issued under the Biden Administration, “Protecting Miners: MSHA Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19” is significantly more detailed than what was provided by MSHA in 2020. The enhanced guidance recommends mine operators and independent contractors working at mines take additional action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. This is akin to what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has recommended in its COVID-19 guidance for general industry workplaces.

Similar to the previous guidance issued by the agency, MSHA continues to rely heavily on best practices outlined byCOVID guidnce the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), however, unlike MSHA’s 2020 guidance, this time the agency lays out specific actions and policies it “recommends” operators undertake while highlighting several specific, existing MSHA regulations that can be applied to COVID-19 prevention for enforcement purposes.

Below, we take a look at some of the most impactful elements of the MSHA guidance, but for a complete review of the MSHA guidance, join us on Thursday, March 18th for the MSHA Defense Report 2021 WebinarCOVID-19 and MSHA: Best Practices and Compliance Strategies for Mine Operators.

COVID-19 Prevention Programs

 For the first time, MSHA formally recommends that each mine develop and implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program. These programs, which have been recommended by OSHA and are required in multiple state-plan OSHA Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”), are expected to be the mine’s (or contractor’s) outline and collection of COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Our Conn Maciel Carey workplace safety team has been recommending employers have these plans in place, and assisting clients with the development of COVID-19 Exposure Control and Response Plans throughout the pandemic.

Now, those employers regulated by MSHA will be expected to have the plans in place. In instances where OSHA has come on site for COVID-19 complaints or investigations, most often the first document request to the employer is for the site’s COVID-19 Prevention Program, even though under federal OSHA – as with MSHA – it is not currently required by regulation.

MSHA recommends a miner’s COVID-19 Prevention Program and plan would at a minimum: Continue reading

We are Celebrating International Women’s Day with our #ChooseToChallenge!

Female,Diverse,Faces,Of,Different,Ethnicity,Seamless,Pattern.,Women,EmpowermentToday is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the historical, cultural, and political achievements of women. To honor this day, we reflect on the significant progress made in gender equality and recognize the adversity that women continue to push through to attain a more inclusive world.  Just this year, Kamala Harris shattered the glass ceiling by not only becoming the first female U.S. Vice President, but the first Black, and South Asian-American U.S. Vice President.  

This significant event in recent history showcases the many women who have paved the way.  Women such as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress; Eleanor Roosevelt, the first U.S. delegate to the United Nations; and, of course, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the second female and the first Jewish female Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  As we already know, we experienced the loss of Justice Ginsberg just last year, but the impact she made as a pioneer who fought for women’s rights, and a leading voice for civil rights and liberties influences the gender equality movement to this day.

What do you #choosetochallenge?

Picture1The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #choosetochallenge.  This initiative is meant to drive actions that will create the gender-equal society we all deserve.  We must challenge ourselves to take accountability for our own thoughts and actions, and be the change we want to see in the world. Check out what Conn Maciel Carey’s Attorneys and Staff #choosetochallenge! Continue reading

MSHA’s 2020 in Review and 2021 Forecast [Webinar Recording]

On February 24, 2021, Nick Scala of Conn Maciel Carey presented a webinar regarding MSHA’s 2020 in Review and 2021 Forecast.Capture

With 2020 behind us, now is the time to take stock of the state of MSHA as the Biden Administration begins. We will review the past year’s enforcement trends and initiatives, as well as regulatory agenda, highlighting the evolution of MSHA and its priorities during the Trump Administration. We will also look to the future, examining how MSHA is most likely to change in the first year of the Biden Administration, and what new enforcement policies will replace those the industry has grown accustomed to the last 4 years.

Participants in this webinar learned the following: Continue reading

[Webinar] MSHA’s 2020 in Review and 2021 Forecast

On Thursday, February 24th at 1:00 p.m. ET, join Nicholas W. Scala for a webinar regarding MSHA’s 2020 in Review and 2021 Forecast.Capture

With 2020 behind us, now is the time to take stock of the state of MSHA as the Biden Administration begins. We will review the past year’s enforcement trends and initiatives, as well as regulatory agenda, highlighting the evolution of MSHA and its priorities during the Trump Administration. We will also look to the future, examining how MSHA is most likely to change in the first year of the Biden Administration, and what new enforcement policies will replace those the industry has grown accustomed to the last 4 years.

Participants in this webinar will learn the following: Continue reading

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s 2021 MSHA Webinar Series

2021 MSHA Webinar Series

Announcing Conn Maciel Carey’s
2021 MSHA Webinar Series

With the Trump Administration’s time in office behind us, mine operators must prepare for a changing MSHA regulatory landscape under the Biden Administration. While MSHA continued its mission under Assistant Secretary Zatezalo the past few years, and some significant changes to the MSHA were put into effect – like the “blurring” of the Metal/Nonmetal and Coal divisions – there are a number of outstanding items that we now expect to move forward at the direction of the Biden team. While it is yet to be seen who will head MSHA for President Biden’s term, the anticipated leaders of the Department of Labor and OSHA have strong ties to labor organizations, which historically results in more stringent regulation and greater enforcement for employers. These impacts may be even more acutely felt by the industry when MSHA eventually publishes its rulemaking efforts on topics such as Crystalline Silica (Quartz) and Powered-Haulage Safety, which were expected before the Trump team left office. With the winds of change moving through Washington D.C., it is now as important as ever to keep tabs on MSHA developments and prepare for inspections.

Conn Maciel Carey’s complimentary 2021 MSHA Webinar Series includes free programs put on by the MSHA-specialist attorneys in the firm’s national MSHA Practice Group, is designed to give you insight into the changes and developments at MSHA during this period of flux and unpredictability. 

To register for an individual webinar, click the registration link in the program descriptions below. To register for the entire 2021 series, click here to send an email request, and we will get you registered. If you miss any of the programs this year or those hosted during prior years, here is a link to our webinar archive.

MSHA’s 2020 in Review and 2021 Forecast

Wednesday, February 24th

MSHA Update and FMSHRC Decision Review

Thursday, August 19th

COVID-19 & MSHA: Best Practices and Compliance Strategies

Thursday, March 18th

MSHA/OSHA Jurisdiction:
When, How and Why to Challenge

Tuesday, September 14th

MSHA Special Investigation Management: Handling 110 and 105(c) Investigations

Wednesday, May 26th

Contesting MSHA Citations and Orders: Tips and Strategies when Challenging

Wednesday, October 27th

What to Expect from DOL Under a Biden Admin.

Wednesday, June 16th

Recap of Year One of the Biden Administration

Tuesday, December 14th

SEE BELOW FOR DESCRIPTIONS OF THE WEBINARS AND REGISTRATION LINKS Continue reading