United States: What's In Store For OSHA Regulations In 2017

OSHA: Looking Back

The bipartisan Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the "OSH Act") was signed into law on December 29, 1970 in reaction to dangerous working conditions across the nation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") was established four months later to foster safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Since the passage of the OSH Act, the rate of reported serious workplace injuries and illnesses has declined from 11 per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.6 per 100 workers in 2009. Approximately 14,000 workers were killed on the job in 1970. In 2014, 4,821 workers were killed on the job. Nevertheless, because thousands of workers are still killed on the job each year and because more than 3 million workers suffer work-related injuries each year, OSHA continues inspecting workplaces and issuing citations to employers.

OSHA recently released its annual list of the year's most-cited safety and health violations, which it formulates based on the results of more than 30,000 OSHA workplace inspections. Because OSHA's most-cited standards list is virtually identical from year to year, the annual compilation should serve as a roadmap of areas in which employers need to proactively improve their health and safety efforts. In fact, the top six citations were the same in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

2016 (preliminary) 2015 2014
1. Fall protection 1. Fall protection 1. Fall protection
2. Hazard communication 2. Hazard communication 2. Hazard communication
3. Scaffolding 3. Scaffolding 3. Scaffolding
4. Respiratory protection 4. Respiratory protection 4. Respiratory protection
5. Lockout/tagout 5. Lockout/tagout 5. Lockout/tagout
6. Powered industrial trucks 6. Powered industrial trucks 6. Powered industrial trucks
7. Ladders 7. Ladders 7. Electrical, wiring methods
8. Machine guarding 8. Electrical, wiring methods 8. Ladders
9. Electrical, wiring methods 9. Machine guarding 9. Machine guarding
10. Electrical, general requirements 10. Electrical, general requirements 10. Electrical, general requirements

Moreover, employers should be cognizant of areas in which incidents are on the rise. For example, OSHA recently determined that the number of workers killed in trench collapses in 2016 (23 workers) more than doubled nationwide since the previous year. Because one cubic yard of soil weighs up to 3,000 pounds, trench collapses are often fatal; however, an additional 12 workers were injured in trench collapses in 2016. In recognition of the low survival rate for trench collapses and because of its position that trench fatalities are preventable, OSHA established a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations and mandates protective systems for trenches that are deeper than five feet.

As 2017 approaches, employers should address deficiencies in all health and safety areas, placing particular emphasis on those with increasing numbers of fatalities or injuries and illnesses, OSHA national emphasis programs, and the most-cited OSHA standards.

OSHA: Looking Forward to 2017

The 2016 presidential election results are likely to affect both OSHA rule-making and enforcement in the next four years, but how these changes manifest themselves remains to be seen. Because President-elect Donald Trump has never held public office, and because he did not focus on OSHA while on the campaign trail, it is impossible to be certain how his administration will address safety and health regulation. It is clear that President-elect Trump disfavors "wasteful and unnecessary" over regulation that "kills jobs," and he recently stated that two regulations must be withdrawn for every new federal regulation that is passed. Of course, amending or withdrawing a regulation is time consuming, and which OSHA regulations might be affected is unknown. In the meantime, speculation about OSHA's role and priorities in the Trump era continues and extends beyond repealing or revising rules. For example: compliance assistance could be emphasized; enforcement could be deemphasized; penalties could be adjusted (again); budgets could be cut; and/or, standard interpretations could be employed to effect changes. Recently finalized OSHA standards that may be impacted if OSHA shifts priorities include the updated walking-working surfaces standard, the revised recordkeeping and reporting standard, and the new silica rule.

In November 2016, OSHA announced its final rule: updating general industry walking-working surfaces standards on slip, trip, and fall hazards; and, adding a new general industry personal protective equipment standard section requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment. The rule takes effect January 17, 2017 and is expected to impact more than 100 million U.S. workers. Given the number of citations pertaining to fall protection, scaffolding, and ladders, it is not surprising that OSHA has taken notice of fall-related issues and updated its rules accordingly. President-elect Trump's position on these updates is not clear.

Earlier this year, OSHA issued a final rule revising its recordkeeping and reporting standard to require certain employers to electronically report specified injury and illness data, which will facilitate OSHA's posting of data on its website. The final rule also: contains anti-retaliation provisions that require employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation; clarifies that employees cannot be deterred or discouraged from reporting by an unreasonable reporting procedure; and, incorporates a preexisting statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses. The anti-retaliation provisions took effect on August 10, 2016, but OSHA delayed their enforcement until December 1, 2016. The remainder of this rule takes effect on January 1, 2017, with a compliance schedule that will be phased in over two years. The final rule's electronic submission requirement does not change the recording criteria for injury and illness records, and it does not alter employers' obligations to complete injury and illness records. However, certain disciplinary and safety incentive programs and drug and alcohol testing policies potentially could be deemed to violate the final rule. The uncertainty regarding what constitutes a violation likely will continue until OSHA issues directives setting guidelines on these issues. Moreover, the new administration's stance on the revised reporting and recordkeeping rule is unclear. Some commentators believe that President-elect Trump may seek to withdraw or modify all or some of the final rule. Alternatively, the "new OSHA" might opt to switch course via issuance of letters of interpretation.

Finally, given industry misgivings about ability to comply and given the new administration's general stance on regulations, the future of the silica rule may be in jeopardy. Right now, enforcement of the final rule in construction is slated to begin June 23, 2017, and general industry's compliance deadline is June 23, 2018. However, until President-elect Trump states his plan for OSHA, or perhaps until he nominates a new Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, the future of the silica rule, specifically, and the future of OSHA regulation and enforcement, in general, will continue to be mere speculation. In the meantime, employers should be careful to meet all OSHA deadlines and comply with all OSHA requirements. And, as always, employers should make the safety and health of their employees a priority regardless of the OSHA direction forged by the new administration.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Carolyn A. Sullivan
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.