New Workplace Masking Guidelines Help Employers, Workers Adapt to New CDC Recommendations

May 24, 2021
Updated guidance from Washington State detail steps employers must take to continue keeping workers safe during COVID-19, while allowing for fully vaccinated workers in many sectors to remove their masks.  Here’s what’s new:
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not have to wear a mask or socially distance at work, unless their employer still requires it.
  • Before ending mask and social distance requirements, employers must confirm workers are fully vaccinated — by having the worker either sign a document attesting to their status or provide proof of vaccination.
  • Employers must be able to demonstrate they have verified vaccination status for workers who are not masked or physically distanced. Verifications methods may include:
    • Creating a log of workers who have verified they've been vaccinated and the date of verification,
    • Checking vaccination status each day as workers enter a jobsite, or
    • Marking a worker's badge or credential to show that they are vaccinated.
 
Other methods demonstrating an employer has verified worker vaccination status may also meet the standard.
  • When verifying an employee's vaccine status, acceptable documentation includes a CDC vaccination card, a photo of the card, documentation from a health care provider, a signed attestation from the worker, or documentation from the state immunization information system.
  • Evidence of the verification system must be available to L&I upon request.
 
What's staying in place:
  • Employers may still require mask use if they choose, and with some exceptions, employers must allow employees to wear a mask or other protective equipment if they choose to, regardless of vaccination status.
  • If an employee is not fully vaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown, employers must continue to require masks and social distancing.
  • The new guidance does not change masking rules for health care settings like hospitals, long-term care facilities, or doctor's offices; correctional facilities; homeless shelters; or schools. And the federal order requiring masks on public transportation remains in place.
  • Employers cannot fire or discriminate against an employee who is at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and is seeking accommodation that protects them from COVID-19 exposure.
  • Unvaccinated individuals are still required to wear face coverings in all public spaces.
Employers are encouraged to check with their local public health agency, which may have more stringent requirements or recommendations for masking and social distancing.
 
Along with the new guidance for employers, L&I and the Department of Health will also be updating the joint Temporary Worker Housing emergency rule, as a result of the new CDC guidelines.  For more information visit: DOSH Directive 1.70 and DOSH Directive 11.80.
 
Upcoming Training
 
To help you get the training you need, Environmental Resource Center has added a number of dates to our already popular live webcast training. Stay in compliance and learn the latest regulations from the comfort of your office or home. You’ll receive the same benefits as our seminar attendees including expert instruction, comprehensive course materials, one year of access to our AnswerlineTM service, course certificate, and a personalized user portal on Environmental Resource Center’s website.
 
Environmental Resource Center’s live webcast training is the best way to learn how to comply with the latest regulations that apply to your site. Learn from the experts and get your site-specific questions answered at these upcoming sessions:
 
OSHA Proposal to Update Handrail, Stair Rail Requirements in Walking-Working Surfaces Standard
 
OSHA has proposed updates in the handrail and stair rail system requirements for its general industry, Walking-Working Surfaces standard.
 
OSHA published a final rule on walking-working surfaces and personal protective equipment in November 2016 that updated requirements for slip, trip and fall hazards. The agency has received numerous questions asking when handrails are required, and about the height requirements for handrails on stairs and stair rail systems.
 
This proposed rule does not reopen for discussion any of the regulatory decisions made in the 2016 rulemaking. It focuses solely on clarifying some of the requirements for handrails and stair rail systems finalized in 2016, and on providing flexibility in the transition to OSHA’s newer requirements.
 
OSHA Hearing to Discuss Updates to Hazard Communication Standard
 
OSHA issued a notice of informal hearing on the Agency’s proposed updates to the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). OSHA has stated that the updates will increase worker protections and reduce the incidence of chemical-related occupational illnesses and injuries by further improving the information on the labels and Safety Data Sheets for hazardous chemicals. Proposed modifications will also address issues since implementation of the 2012 standard, and improve alignment with other federal agencies and Canada.
 
The hearing will begin Sept. 21, 2021, at 10 a.m., EDT, and will be held virtually using WebEx. If necessary, the hearing will continue from 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. EDT on subsequent days. Additional information on how to access the informal hearing will be posted on OSHA's Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Hazard Communication Standard webpage.
 
To participate in the hearing, you must submit a notice of intent to appear at the hearing, along with any submissions and attachments, identified by Docket No. OSHA-2019-0001, electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, which is the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Submissions and requests to appear must be received by June 18, 2021. See the Federal Register notice for additional details.
 
Live Training Resumes in July
 
If you prefer live face to face training, we have good news for you. Environmental Resource Center is resuming its schedule of live nationwide training. We’ll be following the current CDC recommendations for a safe environment and work hard to ensure that you remain safe throughout the sessions. Here’s a list of classes that you can choose from:
Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course (RCRA) Macon July 13-14
  Cary/Raleigh July 20-21
  Birmingham August 3-4
  Indianapolis August 10-11
  Richmond August 17-18
  Nashville August 31-September 1
  Pittsburgh September 14-15
  Spartanburg September 28-29
Texas Hazardous Waste Management Dallas July 27-28
  Houston August 24-25
  San Antonio September 21-22
California Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course Ontario August 3-4
  Los Angeles September 21-22
DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course Macon July 15
  Cary/Raleigh July 22
  Dallas July 29
  Ontario August 5
  Birmingham August 5
  Indianapolis August 12
  Richmond August 19
  Houston August 26
  Nashville September 2
  Pittsburgh September 16
  San Antonio September 23
  Los Angeles September 23
  Spartanburg September 30
RCRA and DOT Annual Update and Refresher Charlotte September 8
  Cary/Raleigh September 29
IATA: How to Ship Dangerous Goods by Air Charlotte September 9
HAZWOPER 8-Hour Refresher Cary/Raleigh September 28
 
EPA to Reduce Methane Pollution from Landfills
 
EPA announced a plan to implement final standards that will protect millions of Americans from the toxic and climate-damaging pollution emitted by municipal landfills.
 
The action comes only about a month after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit threw out a Trump administration rule that would have delayed those protections, in response to a lawsuit filed by EDF and others.
 
“EPA’s plan will significantly reduce methane pollution from one of the largest industrial sources in America, and will reduce hazardous air pollution that puts people’s health at risk nationwide and especially hurts frontline communities that are already disproportionately burdened by pollution,” said EDF senior attorney Rachel Fullmer. “After years of dangerous delay by the Trump administration, it is welcome news to see this practical, common-sense national plan released.”
 
Landfills are the third largest source of methane pollution, which is one of the main causes of climate change. They also emit large amounts of health-harming and even cancer-causing pollution such as toxic benzene.
 
The Clean Air Act requires that EPA set standards to protect Americans from landfill pollution. EPA set standards in 2016 that would have required every state to have a plan in place to meet the standards by November 2017, or elect to be subject to a federal plan.
 
However, for years the Trump EPA went to great lengths to avoid implementing the landfill pollution standards. Then, in 2019, the Trump administration finalized a delay rule that would formally extend the deadlines for the 2016 standards. EDF and the states of California, Illinois, Maryland, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit opposing that delay rule.
 
The Biden Administration asked the court to vacate the delay rule based on a controlling D.C. Circuit opinion in a related case and send the matter back to EPA for further consideration. EDF and the states supported that request, and the court vacated the delay rule on April 5, 2021.
 
The Biden administration has issued its final rule to reduce pollution from existing municipal solid waste landfills operated by any state, tribe or locale that has not already established its own approved plan. Landfills will be required to install and operate a gas collection and control system within 30 months after reaching EPA’s established threshold for pollution. EPA estimates about 1,600 landfills in 41 states, the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community would be covered by the final federal plan. States can still submit their own plan and seek EPA approval, as long as its in advance of the federal plan implementation deadline.
 
The federal plan will eliminate more than 21,000 metric tons per year of pollution from non-methane pollutants, starting this year. In 2016, EPA also estimated that once the emissions guidelines are fully implemented the rule will reduce methane emissions from existing landfills by 290,000 metric tons each year – the equivalent of reducing more than 24 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year over a 20-year timeframe.
 
Oil Chem Owner Gets 12 Months
 
The president and owner of Oil Chem Inc. was sentenced to 12 months in prison for violating the Clean Water Act stemming from illegal discharges of landfill leachate — totaling more than 47 million gallons — into the city of Flint, Michigan sanitary sewer system over an eight and a half year period.
 
Robert J. Massey, 70, of Brighton, Michigan, pleaded guilty on Jan. 14, to a criminal charge of violating the Clean Water Act. According to court records, Oil Chem, located in Flint, Michigan, processed and discharged industrial wastewaters to Flint’s sewer system. The company held a Clean Water Act permit issued by the city of Flint, which allowed it to discharge certain industrial wastes within permit limitations. The city’s sanitary sewers flow to its municipal wastewater treatment plant, where treatment takes place before the wastewater is discharged to the Flint River. The treatment plant’s discharge point for the treated wastewater was downstream of the location where drinking water was taken from the Flint River in 2014 to 2015.
 
According to the plea agreement filed in federal court, Oil Chem’s permit prohibited the discharge of landfill leachate waste. Landfill leachate is formed when water filters downward through a landfill, picking up dissolved materials from decomposing trash. Massey signed and certified Oil Chem’s 2008 permit application and did not disclose that his company had been and planned to continue to receive landfill leachate, which it discharged to the sewers untreated. Nor did Massey disclose to the city when Oil Chem started to discharge this new waste stream, which the permit also required. Massey directed employees of Oil Chem to begin discharging the leachate at the close of business each day, which allowed the waste to flow from a storage tank to the sanitary sewer overnight.
 
From January 2007 through October 2015, Massey arranged for Oil Chem to receive 47,824,293 gallons of landfill leachate from eight different landfills located in Michigan. One of the landfills was found to have polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in its leachate. PCBs are known to be hazardous to human health and the environment.
 
Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) and Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin of the Eastern District of Michigan thanked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division as well as the Michigan Department of Natural Resources-Law Enforcement Division-Environmental Investigations Section and Coast Guard Investigative Service for their work in this investigation.
 
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ann Nee and Jules DePorre of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan and ENRD Senior Counsel Kris Dighe.
 
3,000-Pound Metal Gate Fell on 41-Year-Old Construction Worker
 
Just a month after the new Agua Caliente Casino Cathedral City opened, a metal gate near the casino’s loading dock collapsed, crushing a 41-year-old construction worker under its 3,000-pound weight.
 
An OSHA investigation that followed the Dec. 7, 2020, tragedy found the project’s contractors – Penta Building Group, No Limit Steel and The Raymond Group – failed to conduct inspections to discover hazards, instruct employees on how to recognize workplace dangers, and install caution signs to warn workers about potential hazards. The three contractors face $64,169 in combined penalties.
 
“Required oversight and communication related to workplace safety and health could have prevented this tragic loss of life,” said OSHA Area Director Derek Engard in San Diego. “This case is a painful reminder of why employers must make complying with workplace safety standards a priority.”
 
The Penta Building Group is a general contractor with offices and operations in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Reno. The Raymond Group provides wall and ceiling construction services in Southern California. No Limit Steel is a contractor based in Los Angeles.
 
OSHA offers compliance assistance resources for the construction industry and the management of multi-employer construction projects.
 
A Safer, Greener Way to Make Solar Cells
 
Printed carbon perovskite solar cells have been described as a likely front runner to the market because they are extremely efficient at converting light to electricity, cheap and easy to make.
 
A major barrier to the large-scale manufacture and commercialization of these cells is the solvents used to control crystallization of the perovskite during fabrication: this is because they are made from unsustainable materials and are banned in many countries due to their toxicity and psychoactive effects.
 
SPECIFIC’s researchers have discovered that a non-toxic biodegradable solvent called γ-Valerolactone (GVL) could replace these solvents without impacting cell performance.
GVL’s list of advantages could improve the commercial viability of carbon perovskite solar devices:
  • It is made from sustainable feedstocks
  • There are no legal issues in its use around the world
  • It is suitable for use in large-scale manufacturing processes
  • It is non-toxic and biodegradable
 
Carys Worsley, who led the research as part of her doctorate, said, “To be truly environmentally sustainable, the way that solar cells are made must be as green as the energy they produce. As the next generation of solar technologies approaches commercial viability, research to reduce the environmental impact of large-scale production will become increasingly important.”
 
Professor Trystan Watson, research group leader, added, “Many problems need to be resolved before these technologies become a commercial reality. This solvent problem was a major barrier, not only restricting large-scale manufacture but holding back research in countries where the solvents are banned.
 
We hope our discovery will enable countries that have previously been unable to participate in this research to become part of the community and accelerate the development of cleaner, greener energy.”
 
The research was made possible with funding from the UKRI Global Challenge Research Fund SUNRISE project and through funding of the SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council, Innovate UK, and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
 
Congress Wants Information from Chemical Safety Board on Management Challenges
 
US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Full Committee Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Ranking Member David McKinley (R-WV) wrote to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) demanding information regarding the ongoing management, resources, and personnel challenges it continues to face.
 
“The CSB serves a critical mission to investigate independently the causes of chemical incidents and make recommendations to reduce the risk of future accidents,” the six Committee leaders wrote to CSB Chairman and CEO Katherine Lemos. “Given the Committee’s longstanding interest in ensuring that the CSB is effective, we are concerned about recent reports indicating that both persistent and emergent issues may be undermining the CSB’s ability to protect American communities and workers.”
 
Over its history, the CSB has deployed to more than 130 chemical incidents and issued hundreds of safety recommendations, leading to progress across many different industries. The CSB was authorized by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, but it was not funded until 1998. In the decades since, management problems and resource limitations have compromised the effectiveness of the CSB. Further, CSB has had challenges such as insufficient staffing for investigations, investigation backlogs, tensions among board members, employee dissatisfaction, and wasteful spending.
 
The bipartisan Committee leaders expressed concern over the CSB’s ongoing difficulties meeting its legal authorities related to chemical accident release investigations, as well as its failure to address its investigations backlog. They point out that, currently, the CSB has 20 open investigations – including one from 2016 – and that these delays could result in recommendations being outdated by the time they are complete. They also write that CSB did not approve any new recommendations last year.
 
“As the Committee with jurisdiction over chemical safety and the CSB, we want to ensure that the CSB has the tools it needs during this time of transition to conduct and complete its important investigations. While the Committee appreciates earlier staff briefings with the CSB, we remain concerned about ongoing challenges impacting the agency’s ability to mitigate the risks of future chemical accidents,” the six lawmakers concluded.
 
The bipartisan Committee leaders requested answers to a series of questions, including:
  • How many vacancies remain unfilled, including investigators, and whether current budget allocations are sufficient for filling those vacancies;
  • Reasons for the investigation backlog, including a copy of the CSB’s most recent investigation plan;
  • Status updates on all open investigations, including expected timeframe for completing each investigation and whether any have been terminated or paused due to staffing and resource constraints;
  • Why the CSB failed to approve any recommendations during the last fiscal year; and
  • The extent to which having a single board member, as well as resource and staffing challenges, have impacted the CSB and its ability to effectively execute its mission.
 
Company’s Vice President Pleads Guilty to Negligently Releasing Asbestos
 
Roger Osterhoudt, 58, of Saugerties, New York, pleaded guilty to negligently releasing asbestos and thereby exposing victims to an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury.
 
Osterhoudt, entered a guilty plea to a Clean Air Act violation before the Hon. Judge McAvoy sitting in Binghamton. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Sept. 28. He faces up to a year in prison, five years’ probation, a $50,000 criminal fine, and will likely be held liable for providing restitution to any victims.
 
"Operators of asbestos demolition and renovation projects are responsible for how this dangerous material is handled," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean E. Williams for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Negligently placing people in grave danger from air pollution is a crime that this Division will investigate and, when appropriate, prosecute. This is one of those cases."
 
According to court documents, between 2015 and 2016, Osterhoudt, negligently permitted abatement workers to remove asbestos from a former IBM site in Kingston, now known as TechCity. As Osterhoudt, knew, the facility in question contained over 400,000 square feet of regulated asbestos-containing material (RACM), as well as an additional 6,000 linear feet of RACM pipe wrap. Osterhoudt, as the Vice President of Property Management for TechCity, hired an asbestos abatement contractor and a project monitoring company to remove all the asbestos from the facility prior to its renovation and/or demolition.
 
Between 2015 and 2016, Osterhoudt was made aware that these abatement and project monitoring companies were violating asbestos regulations related to the safe containment, handling, and disposal of asbestos wastes. These regulations are intended to protect workers and prevent releases into surrounding communities and the environment. New York State issued notices of violation (NOVs) as a result of many of these infractions. Nonetheless, Osterhoudt not only permitted the work to continue, but further pressured asbestos abatement supervisors and workers to expedite the removal of asbestos at the site to meet contract deadlines. At times, A2ES’s owner, Stephanie Laskin, and other A2ES supervisors, including Gunay Yakup (both of whom have previously entered guilty pleas), instructed workers to remove RACM dry—leading to visible emissions of asbestos—and directed work to proceed in areas that were not properly sealed off with “critical barriers” intended to prevent the escape of asbestos contamination into the surrounding community and environment.
 
Osterhoudt admitted that he was aware of the numerous NOVs, and that he should have known that by permitting the asbestos abatement and project monitoring companies to continue their illegal practices, he negligently permitted the release of asbestos contamination into the environment and placed others at an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury. Asbestos has been determined to cause lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma, an invariably fatal disease. The EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.
 
Special agents of the EPA and individuals from the New York Departments of Labor and Environmental Conservation investigated the case. Todd W. Gleason and Gary N. Donner of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section prosecuted the case with the assistance of paralegal Chloe Harris.
 
Applied Aero Systems Fined $70,500 for Wastewater Violations
 
The Washington Department of Ecology fined  Applied Aero Systems, LLC (AAS) $70,500 for failing to ensure its industrial wastewater discharges met state limits for toxic metals and other pollutants.
 
AAS failed to properly monitor its wastewater discharges, and did not submit 23 monitoring reports to Ecology. The violations occurred throughout 2019 and through July 2020. The company also missed deadlines in a 2019 order to correct previous violations that date from 2016.
 
The order listed violations that included pollutant levels above permit limits in wastewater discharges, failure to provide adequate treatment, and failure to monitor the wastewater discharges.
 
Under its water quality permit, AAS is required to sample, monitor, and remove industrial pollutants as needed in its wastewater, and then report to Ecology. The permit limits the toxic metals – including cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, silver, and zinc – cyanide, and toxic organics the company’s wastewater can contain.
 
“Industries play a critical role in helping protect Puget Sound,” said Vince McGowan, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality Program. “Applied Aero Systems left us no choice but to fine them for years of failing to follow the most fundamental requirements of their water quality permit.”
 
AAS discharges its wastewater to the Mukilteo Water and Wastewater District’s wastewater treatment plant through the local sewer. Without proper pre-treatment, industrial pollutants can harm the wastewater plant or pass through untreated into Puget Sound.
 
PVS Chemical Solutions, Inc., Ordered to Temporarily Cease Operations
 
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), in consultation with the State Department of Health (DOH), directed PVS Chemical Solutions, Inc., to temporarily cease operations at its Buffalo facility, effective immediately, due to a public health risk to users of the nearby athletic field at the Medaille College Sports Complex at Buffalo Color Park. DEC and DOH directed the facility to cease operations after monitoring at the athletic field found exceedances of emissions of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) from the facility. State agencies are directing PVS to cease operations until the facility is able to demonstrate it can operate in a manner that does not pose a threat to public health.
 
"After repeated exceedances of air quality standards, I am directing PVS Chemical Solutions to cease operations, effective immediately," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "Until PVS can prove it can operate without emitting potentially harmful SO2 into this community, either by altering operations or scaling back production, it should remain shuttered. DEC will not hesitate to use our full regulatory authority to protect this community from exposure to potentially dangerous pollution."
 
"My staff are coordinating with the Department of Environmental Conservation in this investigation to ensure that public health is protected and immediate exposure risk is mitigated," said New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.
 
DEC and DOH experts are working closely with local entities including the Erie County Health Department to ensure proper closure of the PVS facility and to respond to questions from local residents.
 
In response to concerns raised by users of the nearby sports complex about odors and potential respiratory issues, DEC deployed an ambient air monitoring trailer in 2020, adjacent to the athletic field downwind of the PVS facility to conduct sampling for SO2. Sampling data showed numerous exceedances of the SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which led DEC to issue Notices of Violation in 2020 and commence an administrative enforcement action in March 2021 to address these air quality violations.
 
DEC redeployed the monitoring trailer on March 31, 2021, following a seasonal suspension, to continue SO2 monitoring. In April, data showed additional NAAQS SO2 exceedances. DEC immediately consulted with DOH to determine if exposure to these levels could cause acute health impacts. DOH determined hazardous SO2 conditions at the athletic field are creating a public health threat that requires immediate action. In particular, DOH's review of sampling data found that the number and duration of these unhealthy air episodes is of particular risk to exercising individuals and to other vulnerable groups, including asthmatics.
 
DEC and DOH will continue to monitor SO2 to assess all potential impacts from facility emissions. In addition, DEC and DOH will work with the Department of Labor and the federal OSHA to investigate any potential exposures to the facility's employees.
 
Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with a pungent odor and taste. SO2 exposure can cause irritation and permanent damage to the lungs. SO2 can be transported over long distances and contributes to the formation of acid rain, which damages plant and animal life. Inhalable sulfate particulate matter formed from SO2 can impair visibility. For more information, visit EPA's website.
 
PVS Chemical Solutions, Inc., owns and operates this facility at 55 Elk Street in Buffalo, that manufactures all strengths and grades of sulfuric acid and oleum using the contact process. Additional substances produced and stored at the facility include ammonium thiosulfate and sodium bisulfite. Raw materials for these processes include molten sulfur, spent sulfuric acid, anhydrous ammonia, sodium hydroxide, and sodium carbonate. The facility operates seven days a week, 24 hour days, 365 days a year.
 
Owner of a Tanker Truck Repair Company Pleads Guilty to Violating Safety Standards and Making False Statement to OSHA Investigator
 
Loren Kim Jacobson, 65, of Pocatello, Idaho and owner of a tanker testing and repair company, KCCS Inc., pleaded guilty to making an illegal repair to a cargo tanker in violation of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA) and lying to OSHA, Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr. announced. The case arose from an explosion that occurred at KCCS during a cargo tanker repair on August 14, 2018, severely injuring a KCCS employee.
 
According to the plea agreement, the KCCS employee’s welder flame pierced the skin of the tanker, which contained residual flammable material, resulting in the tanker exploding.  After the explosion, an OSHA investigator interviewed Jacobson about the circumstances surrounding the accident, as part of an investigation into whether Jacobson had violated OSHA safety standards for cargo tanker repair work. Jacobson made a materially false statement to the OSHA investigator during that interview, namely that his employee was merely an “observer,” not an employee, and that KCCS did not have any employees. This was an important point because OSHA requirements only apply to “employers.” Jacobson lied about not having employees to evade legal repercussions and penalties for his violation of various OSHA safety standards during the repair that resulted in the explosion.
 
“The terrible injuries involved this case are a stark reminder of the need for workplace safety requirements and enforcement,” said Gonzalez. “I commend the investigators at OSHA, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency for uncovering the evidence in this case. Working with our partners, our office will continue to hold employers accountable for criminally endangering their employees.”
 
Jacobson also admits in the plea agreement that he did not possess the necessary certification to conduct cargo tanker repairs that he regularly conducted. Under the HMTA, all repairs to the skin of a cargo tanker require that the repairperson hold an “R-stamp,” which can be obtained only after meeting extensive training requirements. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that those conducting repairs on cargo tankers (which often haul flammable materials) have adequate training and expertise to do so safely. Jacobson admitted that he had a regular practice of making repairs requiring an R-stamp, despite knowing he did not have one, and that he would send employees into the cargo tankers to weld patches from the inside of the tanker so that the illegal repairs would not be visible from the outside. Jacobson did not follow OSHA safety standards for protecting employees from such dangerous “confined space entries.” According to the plea agreement, Jacobson directed his employee to conduct a hidden repair of this type on the tanker that subsequently exploded, in violation of both OSHA safety standards and the R-stamp requirement.
 
“The Environmental Crimes Section’s Worker Safety Initiative is designed to make sure that employers like Loren Jacobson, who shirk safety requirements and put their employees, customers, and the public at risk, are held accountable for their actions,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jean Williams for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We are committed to protecting the lives and health of those who do the important work of keeping safe cargo vehicles on the road. This prosecution makes clear to others who might be tempted to ignore these certification and safety programs that they will face felony consequences for putting their employees and the public in danger. Our thanks go out to the investigators from OSHA, the EPA, and the DOT who worked diligently to bring these violations to light. And our thoughts are with the victim of this horrible accident.”
 
“Loren Jacobson lied to OSHA Investigators to cover up the extreme risks he had been taking with his employees,” said Special Agent in Charge Quentin Heiden of the U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Inspector General, Los Angeles. “The Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of American workers.”
 
“Today’s guilty plea is a sober reminder that endangering the health and safety of commercial industry workers and the public by violating federal hazardous materials transportation requirements will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Cissy Tubbs of the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General - Western Region Office of Investigations. “We offer our sincerest condolences to the victim of the August 2018 explosion and remain steadfast in our commitment to working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners to hold accountable those who flaunt federal requirements to place financial gain above public safety.”
 
“OSHA’s mission is to ensure that every American comes home safe and sound after the day’s work,” said Boise OSHA Director David Kearns. “When an employer lies to OSHA, he passes the buck, leaving the door open to more workplace injuries and deaths. No one should be killed or injured for a paycheck. Dishonesty is not a means to protect workers. OSHA was pleased to work with our investigative partners and the Department of Justice to hold this employer criminally liable for his deceit.”
 
Jacobson is scheduled to be sentenced on August 25, 2021 before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill at the federal courthouse in Pocatello.
 
Both the HMTA violation and the false statement offenses that Jacobson pleaded guilty to are punishable by up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
 
Trial Attorney Cassandra Barnum of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit of the District of Idaho are prosecuting this case. The investigation was handled by the DIT, the EPA, and OSHA.
 
Johns Hopkins Scientist Develops Method to Find Toxic Chemicals in Drinking Water
 
Most consumers of drinking water in the United States know that chemicals are used in the treatment processes to ensure the water is safe to drink. But they might not know that the use of some of these chemicals, such as chlorine, can also lead to the formation of unregulated toxic byproducts.
 
Johns Hopkins Environmental Health and Engineering Professor Carsten Prasse has proposed a new approach to assessing drinking water quality that could result in cleaner, safer taps.
 
“We are exposing people in the United States to these chemical compounds without knowing what they even do,” Prasse said. “I’m not saying that chlorination is not important in keeping our drinking water safe. But there are unintended consequences that we have to address and that the public needs to know about. We could do more than what we’re doing.”
 
Among disinfection byproducts, only 11 compounds are currently regulated in drinking water, according to his paper published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts. This is in stark contrast to the more than 700 disinfection byproducts that have so far been identified in chlorinated drinking water, he said.
 
Prasse said the number of disinfection byproducts that are regulated in drinking water have not changed since the 1990s, despite clear scientific evidence for the presence of other toxic compounds.
 
The existing approach to evaluate chemicals in drinking water is extremely tedious and based on methods that are often outdated, he said. For instance, chemicals are currently evaluated for toxicity by expensive, time-consuming animal studies.
 
Applying those same methods to the growing number of chemicals in drinking water would not be economically feasible, Prasse said. At a minimum, he added, new methods are needed to identify chemicals that are of highest concern.
 
Prasse proposes casting a bigger net to capture a more diverse mix of chemicals in water samples. The “reactivity-directed analysis” can provide a broader readout of what’s present in drinking water by targeting the largest class of toxic chemicals known as “organic electrophiles.”
 
“This method can help us prioritize which chemicals we need to be paying closer attention to with possible new regulations and new limits while saving time and resources,” Prasse said.
 
This new approach, which takes advantage of recent advances in the fields of analytical chemistry and molecular toxicology, identifies toxicants based on their reactivity with biomolecules such as amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The new approach simulates this process in order to identify toxic chemicals in drinking water.
 
“We know that the toxicity of many chemicals is caused by their reaction with proteins or DNA which alter their function and can result, for example, in cancer,” Prasse said.
 
Bill to Close Hazardous Waste Loophole for Drilling Waste in Pennsylvania
 
Pennsylvania state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Allegheny, and state Sen. Katie Muth, D-Berks, Chester, Montgomery, have reintroduced legislation that would close a decades-long loophole regarding the disposal of toxic drilling waste.
 
Under the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA), passed 30 years ago, oil and gas companies are excluded from the requirement to thoroughly test or treat waste before disposing of it in municipal landfills and in turn wastewater treatment plants, neither of which are capable of treating such waste. Oil and gas waste is so radioactive that it kills the microbes meant to treat waste intended for these wastewater treatment facilities. This means that not only the hazardous waste not meant for wastewater treatment facilities shoots right through the wastewater treatment facility, but normal waste that should be treated by the facility can also make it untreated into rivers.
 
“Right now, under the supervision of both the DEP and EPA, billions of gallons of radioactive frack waste is being discharged each year into waterways of our Commonwealth,” said Muth. ”This legislation would provide long overdue protections needed to keep our drinking water, land, and air safe from the radioactive harm of the extraction industry.”
 
Oil and gas wastewater contains chemicals—harmful radioactive elements, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and salts—that can be detrimental to both Pennsylvanians and the environment. As a result of the current law, this toxic waste ends up in our water supplies, putting communities at risk.
 
“This is a huge oversight in the Solid Waste Management Act that is having severe impacts on our neighbors and our environment. We cannot allow the current practice of dangerous toxic waste disposal to continue. Pennsylvanians deserve better. Our planet deserves better,” said Innamorato.
 
Innamorato and Muth are introducing a package of three bills in their respective chambers that would hold the oil and gas industry to the same standards as other industries. HB2925/SB645 will include drilling waste in the SWMA’s definition of hazardous waste. HB2926/SB644 would repeal the language in the SWMA that exempts oil and gas industries from testing or treating drilling wastewater before disposal. HB2927/SB646 would subject oil and gas waste to testing before it is accepted in or released from municipal and sanitary landfills. That will prevent landfills from acting as a gateway for hazardous and radioactive waste to enter our drinking water via wastewater treatment facilities.
 
“These bills would hold the oil and gas industry accountable for the waste it produces. By requiring that companies test their waste, we can ensure it’s properly treated and disposed of,” said Innamorato. “By closing this loophole, we will be prioritizing the health of our citizens, workers, and environment over companies who make billions of dollars from our communities’ natural resources.”
 
Innamorato and Muth tried to champion this legislation last session, but members of the majority party didn’t consider it a priority. They’re reintroducing these important bills once again in an attempt to make Pennsylvania a safe place to live.
 
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 new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule. Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course is available via live webcasts. If you plan to also attend DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course, call 800-537-2372 to find out how you can get your course materials on an Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
 
Job Openings at Environmental Resource Center
 
Environmental Resource Center has openings for EHS consultants and trainers. If you are looking for a new challenge, send your resume and salary requirements to Brian Karnofsky at brian@ercweb.com.
 
News Links
 
 
Trivia Question of the Week