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Labor, Transportation Departments sustain regulation roll back

Associated Builders & Contractors Government Affairs staff has assessed the Trump Administration’s recently released 2017 regulatory agenda, noting the prospect for significant relief from rules or measures the Department of Labor and Environmental Protection Agency adopted under President Barack Obama.

The agenda spells Labor Department actions to immediately or eventually remove “many rules.” The agency recently issued a Request For Information (RFI) on the overtime rule, a likely first step in issuing a revised proposed overtime exemption rule and subject to public comments through September 25. Additionally, the agency has issued a proposal to rescind the persuader rule, officially named “Interpretation of the ‘Advice’ Exemption in Section 203(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.”

By way of public comment, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association President Robert Garbini expressed support for the latter action, noting how the persuader rule serves “to discourage employers from seeking competent legal advice during union organizing campaigns. Small employers who have no expertise in the processes and procedures of union campaigns will be given a Hobson’s choice: either they give up their free speech rights and remain silent, or they express their opinions and risk the commission of unfair labor practices. Employees are denied information which is relevant and necessary to their decision whether or not to be represented by a union for purposes of collective bargaining.”

“The only clear beneficiaries of the revisions are the unions themselves who have a dramatically easier opportunity to mislead and misinform employees. Finally, the new regulation is overbroad, and limits legitimate human resource activities that are tangentially, if at all, related to union organizing.”

On the agenda for this fall is a proposal to reconsider, revise or remove provisions of the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule. Other OSHA rules on the agenda include: Crane Operator Qualification in Construction – Proposed Rule; Standards Improvement Project IV – Final Rule, September 2017; Quantitative Fit Testing Protocol: Amendment to the Final Rule on Respiratory Protection, October 2017; Amendments to the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard – Long Term Action; and, Lock-Out/Tag-Out Update – Request for Information (RFI), April 2018.

Lock-Out/Tag-Out action stems from recent advancements that employ computer-based controls of hazardous energy (e.g., mechanical, electrical, pneumatic, chemical, radiation), which have become more prevalent as manufacturers modernize plant equipment designs, yet conflict with existing safety protocol. OSHA officials also cite international standards harmonization concerns as computer-based hazardous energy controls are more accepted in other countries than the U.S. An April 2018 RFI will help agency officials understand the strengths and limitations of computer-based controls tied to equipment lock-out/tag-out standard procedures, along with potential hazards to workers.

Labor officials have also listed a proposed rule, “Apprenticeship Programs, Labor Standards for Registration, Amendment of Regulations,” for May 2018 release. It will advance President Trump’s Executive Order 13801, “Expanding Apprenticeships in America,” to create a system for industry-recognized programs and look beyond current government-defined apprenticeship parameters.