U.S. Department of Labor Announces Changes to OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program

September 20, 2022
To strengthen enforcement and improve compliance with workplace safety standards and reduce worker injuries and illnesses, the U.S. Department of Labor is expanding the criteria for placement in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
The new criteria include violations of all hazards and OSHA standards and will continue to focus on repeat offenders in all industries. Previously, an employer could be in the program for failing to meet a limited number of standards. The changes will broaden the program's scope with the possibility that additional industries will fall within its parameters.
Since 2010, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program has focused on enforcement and inspection resources on employers who either willfully or repeatedly violate federal health and safety laws or demonstrate a refusal to correct previous violations. In addition to being included on a public list of the nation's severe violators, employers are subject to follow-up inspections.
"The Severe Violator Enforcement Program empowers OSHA to sharpen its focus on employers who – even after receiving citations for exposing workers to hazardous conditions and serious dangers – fail to mitigate these hazards," said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. "Today's expanded criteria reflect the Biden-Harris administration's commitment to ensuring OSHA has the tools it needs to ensure employers protect their workers or hold them accountable when they fail to provide safe and healthy workplaces."
Specifically, the updated criteria include the following:
  • Program placement for employers with citations for at least two willful or repeated violations or who receive failure-to-abate notices based on the presence of high-gravity serious violations.
  • Follow-up or referral inspections made one year – but not longer than two years – after the final order.
  • Potential removal from the Severe Violator Enforcement Program three years after the date of receiving verification that the employer has abated all program-related hazards. In the past, removal could occur three years after the final order date.
  • Employers' ability to reduce time spent in the program to two years, if they consent to an enhanced settlement agreement that includes use of a safety and health management system with seven basic elements in OSHA's Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.
The updated program instruction replaces the 2010 instruction and remains in effect until canceled or superseded.
Global Study on Cancer Burden: Asbestos Exposure Remains a Leading Risk Factor
Occupational exposure to asbestos is among the top risk factors contributing to the burden of cancer worldwide, according to research published last month in The Lancet. The research is based on the 2019 iteration of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD), a long-running project led by the University of Washington that provides estimates of global health for causes of death and disability and their associated risk factors.
The GBD uses disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs, to estimate the burden of cancer attributable to more than 80 risk factors. These factors are grouped into three main categories: behavioral, metabolic, and environmental and occupational. The metrics that comprise DALYs are years of life lost (YLLs) due to premature mortality and years of healthy life lost due to disability (YLDs). The paper also describes differences in cancer burden through the lens of the GBD socio-demographic index, a measure of a country’s development that incorporates rankings of income per capita, educational attainment, and fertility rates.
According to the 2019 iteration of GBD, the leading age-adjusted risk factors contributing to worldwide cancer burden in 2019 were almost identical to those in 2010. Occupational exposure to asbestos ranked seventh in both years, with 61.1 DALYs per 100,000 person years in 2010 and 50.9 DALYs per 100,000 person years in 2019. The percentage change of 16.7 DALYs for occupational asbestos exposure was the largest drop among the top ten risk factors but not enough to change its position in the rankings.
The top risk factor was smoking, with 774.1 DALYs per 100,000 person years in 2010 and 677.3 DALYs per 100,000 person years in 2019. Other top risk factors were alcohol use, high body-mass index, and unsafe sex. Ambient particulate matter pollution ranked sixth, with 86.3 DALYs per 100,000 person years in 2010 and 84.2 DALYs per 100,000 person years in 2019.
Supplemental material provided by the authors further breaks down the 2019 GBD data by gender and by SDI quintiles. For men in countries in the top SDI quintile, occupational exposure to asbestos is the third leading cancer risk factor, with an age-adjusted rate of 215.6 DALYs per 100,000 person years in 2019. For men in countries with a high-middle SDI rating, occupational exposure to asbestos was the sixth leading risk factor for cancer in 2019. Occupational asbestos exposure does not appear among the top 10 risk factors for men or women in countries whose SDI rating is in the middle quintile or lower.
The paper “The Global Burden of Cancer Attributable to Risk Factors, 2010–19: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019,” including its supplemental materials, is an open-access publication. More information about the GBD is available from The Lancet.
National Academies Recommends Testing for PFAS Exposure
A report released in August by the National Academies for the Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) recommends that people in certain occupations and who live in areas contaminated with perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) should have their blood tested to determine the extent of their exposure. Those whose PFAS exposure levels are associated with increased risk of adverse health effects should receive regular screenings, the report states.
PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that were in widespread use for decades in consumer products and across industries. PFAS exposure is associated with increased risk of lowered antibody response, high cholesterol, decreased infant and fetal growth, and increased risk of kidney cancer, according to the NAS report. Their persistence in the environment has earned PFAS the nickname “forever chemicals.”
Intended to inform CDC guidance to clinicians, the NAS report says that PFAS blood testing should be offered to patients who are likely to have a history of elevated exposure, a group that includes people who work in fluorochemical manufacturing, electroplating, painting, carpet installation and treatment, firefighting, and in jobs that require handling of ski wax. Others who may have elevated exposure to PFAS include food workers and others in the hospitality industry who handle food packaging as part of their jobs. People who live in areas known to be contaminated with PFAS should also be tested, according to the report.
The report can be downloaded as a free PDF from the NAS website. For more information, read the NAS news release and visit an interactive website that explores findings from the report.
Washington Department of Ecology to Improve Hazardous Waste Planning Fee Rule
Washington state’s Department of Ecology wants to make its hazardous waste planning fee more equitable by clarifying how it will be calculated. The environmental agency is proposing a change to section 220 of Chapter 173-305 WAC that would increase transparency and prevent an inequitable financial impact to businesses that report a waste stream designated as both dangerous waste and extremely hazardous waste.
In Washington, businesses that generate certain amounts of waste are required to submit an annual pollution prevention plan along with a fee that largely depends on the amount of waste generated. This fee is also based on the type of waste generated. Washington state is stricter than the federal government in its definition of “hazardous waste,” designating certain types as “dangerous waste” and any dangerous waste that is highly toxic and will remain hazardous for several years at a disposal site as “extremely hazardous waste.”
“Some businesses in Washington are finding it challenging to properly designate their waste due to the complexity of the existing rule,” said Katrina Lassiter, who manages Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. “As a result, businesses that report their waste as both dangerous and extremely hazardous pay higher fees than those who generate the same waste stream, but report it only as dangerous. We need to rectify this inequity.”
Ecology calculates the Hazardous Waste Planning Fee using a formula that applies risk factors (i.e., multiplication factors) to specific types of dangerous waste. Currently, the agency applies the following risk factors to an individual waste stream:
  • 1 for a waste stream that designates as dangerous waste (DW)
  • 10 for a waste stream that designates as extremely hazardous waste (EHW)
Current law doesn’t specify which risk factor to apply to a waste stream that designates as both DW and EHW. The proposed change would specify a risk factor of 1 to waste streams that designate as both DW and EHW.
While the dangerous waste regulations don’t require all hazardous waste generators to designate for extremely hazardous waste (unless they meet specific conditions in WAC 173-303-070), the designation requirements do require generators to manage their waste under the most stringent management standards that apply based on their generator category. Therefore, this rulemaking will not impact the overall risk these wastes pose.
Those wishing to keep updated on the Hazardous Waste Planning Fee rulemaking process and when its public comment periods are scheduled can:
EPA Settlement Resolves Alleged Hazardous Waste Management Violations
A recent settlement between the EPA and a power control system manufacturer in Hingham, Mass., means the facility is now performing the training and inspections necessary to comply with federal and state laws regulating the management of hazardous waste. The company has also agreed pay a penalty of $121,546 under the terms of the settlement.
In the action, EPA alleged that Siemens Industry, Inc., d/b/a Russelectric, a Siemens Business, a Delaware corporation, violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as well as hazardous waste regulations established by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Specifically, the company failed to comply with requirements necessary to operate as a large quantity generator of hazardous waste, including initial and refresher training for employees, maintenance of a chemical release contingency plan, and performance of weekly inspections.
Without proper training, employees may not know how to handle hazardous waste safely and how to respond in an emergency, thereby increasing the likelihood of a release and worker exposure. Without an appropriate contingency plan, facility operators and staff may not know or be practiced in appropriate responses to an accident or other unforeseen circumstances. And without a robust inspection program, facilities are at greater risk of releasing hazardous waste and thereby endangering both human health and the environment.
As part of the settlement, Russelectric has confirmed that the facility is in compliance with state and federal hazardous waste management laws.
Developers Face $1.9 Million Penalty for Repeatedly Violating Construction Stormwater Permit
Two Southern California developers and a corporate officer could be penalized $1.9 million by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board for reported violations of their construction stormwater general permit at a multi-use development in Rosemead, including the failure to retain a qualified stormwater manager to oversee inspections, maintenance, repairs and sampling. The Los Angeles Water Board recently issued an administrative civil liability complaint against Garvey Garden Plaza LLC, Yang Ming Construction Inc., and Jimmy Duong for allegedly violating statewide stormwater requirements during construction of a housing and commercial complex on a 1.1-acre site.
During a dozen inspections that began Oct.1, 2019, and continued through December 2020, regional board staff found multiple and repeated permit violations. Most significantly, the inspections revealed the absence of a qualified Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan expert whose presence at the Garvey Garden Plaza is a critical requirement of the general permit for activities associated with construction and land disturbances.
The allegations include the unauthorized discharge of 9,283 gallons of sediment-laden stormwater from the southwest corner of the site that flows into the nearby Rio Hondo Channel, threatening to expose humans and wildlife to bacteria, harmful metals and organic compounds.
“The dischargers were warned on numerous occasions that they were violating their stormwater construction permit, yet they made almost no effort to come into compliance while their project was being built,” said Hugh Marley, assistant executive officer with the regional board. “We hope that proposing a substantial penalty serves as a reminder that the board vigilantly strives to protect water quality and will use all enforcement measures within our authority to discourage similar abuses.”
The developers also allegedly failed to do the following:
  • Install effective perimeter controls
  • Implement good housekeeping practices for waste management such as cleaning up concrete spills and construction debris and placing secondary containment around portable toilets
  • Establish adequate controls for the air deposition of trash
  • Stabilize the construction site entrance and exit
  • Maintain a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan – the key document for the control of pollutants and stormwater – on site
  • Provide the correct Risk Level and completion date information in the Stormwater Multiple Application and Report Tracking System database
Additional information on statewide construction stormwater general permits is available on the State Water Resources Control Board website.
With 10 million residents, Los Angeles is the most densely populated region in the state. It encompasses the coastal watersheds of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, along with portions of Kern and Santa Barbara Counties.
Attorney General Frosh, Secretary Tablada Announce Settlement with Valley Proteins
Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Secretary Horacio Tablada recently announced a settlement with Valley Proteins, an Eastern Shore poultry processing facility that uses poultry industry refuse to make food for other animals. The consent decree settles the lawsuit filed by the Office of Attorney General (OAG) on behalf of MDE in the Circuit Court for Dorchester County on February 2, 2022. The lawsuit alleged that Valley Proteins had repeatedly discharged ammonia, phosphorus and other pollutants into the Transquaking River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, for well over a year. Valley Proteins’ illegal discharge of pollutants was in violation of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit and State water pollution laws, and included failure to implement stormwater pollution plan best management practices, numerous unauthorized discharges of wastewater, sludge, and solids, and violations of its air emissions permit.
“Valley Proteins repeatedly discharged harmful pollutants – including nitrogen, phosphorus and fecal coliform – into a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Attorney General Frosh. “These violations of our environmental laws threatened fragile ecosystems and our treasured Chesapeake Bay. This settlement and hefty penalty sends a strong message to Valley Proteins and others that they are not free to pollute Maryland’s waters and air.”
“When the Valley Proteins facility’s operations threatened the quality of our water and our air the Maryland Department of the Environment took an enforcement action to assign accountability and to deter future violations,” said Maryland Secretary of the Environment Horacio Tablada. “We are pleased to now have a strong, enforceable agreement that will allow this important facility that serves the agriculture community to continue to operate while achieving environmental compliance and helping us to meet our water and air quality goals.”
The Valley Proteins plant discharges into a tributary of the Transquaking River, which flows into Fishing Bay, an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay. The rendering plant is a significant source of nutrient pollution to the Transquaking River. MDE inspections from January 2019 through January 2022 found numerous violations, including unauthorized discharges of wastewater, sludge and raw chicken parts, and failure to take steps to prevent runoff of poultry solids. MDE inspectors also noted dozens of air pollution violations caused by malfunctioning odor-control equipment.
The consent decree requires Valley Proteins to correct stormwater violations; conduct a groundwater investigation to determine if the wastewater lagoons are leaking pollutants and, if leaking, to stop the leak and remediate any contamination; upgrade its existing wastewater treatment system in order to address effluent violations; conduct stormwater sampling; and investigate and implement improvements to address odor pollution beyond the facility’s property line. Additionally, Valley Proteins is required to pay a civil penalty of $540,000 for violations of Title 2 and Title 9 of the Environment Article, pay stipulated penalties if it fails to meet any deadline or schedule required by the consent decree, and pay past and future costs to the State for response costs. Chesapeake Legal Alliance, on behalf of ShoreRivers and Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, intervened in the State’s lawsuit on February 11, 2022, and are also parties to the consent decree. Valley Proteins is also required to pay the citizen’s groups their attorneys’ fees, reimburse past and future costs, and pay into the Transquaking River Watershed Fund, in furtherance of water quality improvements.
Now that a consent decree with enforceable conditions for the Valley Proteins facility to come into and maintain compliance with environmental laws and regulations has been finalized, MDE can finish its work in determining the appropriate, complementary conditions to be included in a final renewal discharge permit for the plant. That permit will be issued within the next 60 days.
EPA Honors 2022 Green Power Leaders
The EPA recently announced the Green Power Leadership Award Winners for 2022, honoring three Green Power Partners across the United States: Bimbo Bakeries USA, Google, and T-Mobile. These organizations exemplify the EPA Green Power Partnership (GPP)’s market leadership and impact principles, driving product innovation, enabling green power access, and accelerating the transition to a pollution-free electricity sector.
"I applaud the winners recognized today for their leadership in promoting the voluntary purchase of clean, renewable energy," said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. "Fighting the climate crisis requires action across our economy, and these companies are showing that every business can play an important and immediate role in powering not only their businesses and growth, but the equitable transition to a clean energy economy."
For more than 20 years, the Green Power Leadership Awards have recognized hundreds of organizations for their exceptional achievements and leadership in the green power marketplace. EPA’s Green Power Partners invest in clean energy technology across the country, facilitate grid improvements, and influence other business to switch to green power, spurring rapid growth of the green power market and paving the way for a clean energy future. Concrete actions by these organizations influence the green power market, increasing access to and use of renewable electricity for all.
This year's Green Power Leadership Award recipients are using approximately 17.4 billion kilowatt-hours of green power, enough to power more than 1.6 million average American homes for a year. Green power is electricity generated from renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact hydro. These sources offer the greatest environmental benefit compared to conventional power generation. Using green power helps advance the American green power market, which accelerates the development of these resources in the United States.
The EPA Green Power Leadership Award winners for 2022 are:
  • Bimbo Bakeries USA – Bimbo Bakeries USA is a new Green Power Partner, and this is its first Green Power Leadership Award. Bimbo Bakeries joined the Green Power Partnership using 100% green power – over 490 million kWh annually. Bimbo Bakeries USA has also installed microgrids, comprised of solar arrays coupled with battery storage, at six of its California bakeries. These projects not only expand Bimbo’s renewable portfolio, but also improve grid resiliency and demonstrate clean energy leadership in the food and beverage industry.
  • Google – Google demonstrates an exemplary use of green power and commitment to innovation through leadership in the green power markets. EPA is recognizing Google in part for developing and sharing its novel methodology for matching carbon-free electricity generation on an hourly basis to better identify and direct its investments and utilization of carbon-free power. Since its last Green Power Leadership Award in 2019, Google has increased its procurement of green power by more than 50% to over 9 billion kWh annually. The company has consistently been at the very top of the Green Power Partnership Ranking List in scale of procurement.
  • T-Mobile – T-Mobile has made an impact on the green power market with its increase in green power use, ambitious target setting, and support of diversity in corporate clean energy value chains. This past year, T-Mobile increased its usage of renewable energy more than fourfold to 7.8 billion kWh of green power – the single largest increase in green power over a calendar year in the Green Power Partnership’s history. The company has also set ambitious emission reduction targets aligned with the Paris Agreement 1.5-degree pathway to limit global warming. T-Mobile is a member of RE100 and was a founding member of the Diversity in Clean Energy (DiCE)
EPA established the Green Power Partnership in 2001 to protect human health and the environment by increasing organizations’ voluntary green power use and investment to advance the American market for green power and development of those resources. The GPP provides a framework that includes credible usage benchmarks, market information, technical assistance, and public recognition to companies and other organizations that use green power. In 2020, the GPP had more than 700 Partners voluntarily using nearly 70 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually. Partners include a wide variety of leading organizations such as Fortune 500® companies; small and medium sized businesses; local, state, and federal governments; and colleges and universities. For additional information, please visit the EPA Green Power Partnership website.
The Green Power Leadership Awards are announced at the Renewable Energy Markets Conference. EPA is the Organizing Sponsor of the Renewable Energy Markets Conference. Please visit Green Power Leadership Awards for a full list of EPA 2022 Green Power Leadership Award winners.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual training is required by 40 CFR 262.17(a)(7).  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
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