Events and News

OSHA Proposes Delay of July 1, 2017 Deadline to Submit Injury/Illness Data

June 29, 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced that it is delaying the compliance date for its recordkeeping and reporting requirement that required employers, including foundries, to electronically submit their injury and illness data annually. 

If implemented in its current form, the new rule would have required employers to submit their OSHA 300 Logs, 301 Incident Reports, and 300A Annual Summaries to OSHA through an online portal that would allow for public access to that information.

OSHA did not provide any specifics as to how long the extension will be or when the official proposal will be issued.  Several lawsuits against OSHA electronic recordkeeping rule remain pending.  AFS will provide updates to the membership when additional information is released.

EPA Extends Deadline for Costly 2015 Ozone Standard - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA0 is providing states an extra year to develop air quality plans related to the 2015-National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone.  The 2015 ozone standard, issued by the Obama administration, tightens the existing 2008 standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb.  Designations for the 2015 standard were originally due by this October. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the extension in a June 6 letter sent to the U.S. governors.

EPA is taking additional time to review and re-evaluate some of the issues that AFS and a coalition of manufacturers raised in its comments to EPA and subsequent law suit on the 2015 rule.  It plans to review the role of background ozone levels, how to account for international transport, and timelier exceptional events demonstrations.  The agency has also established an “Ozone Cooperative Compliance Task Force” to develop additional flexibilities for states to comply with the ozone standard. Click here for an up-to-date breakdown of states/counties/areas currently in nonattainment for ozone (2008 8-hour standard).

Foundries could eventually feel the effects of tighter ozone limits through restrictions on facility emissions in areas with poor air quality, as well as additional controls.  Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation in both chambers of Congress to delay implementation of the 70 ppb ozone standard until the middle of the next decade.

Steel 232 Trade Action Nearing
The Commerce Department has accelerated its Section 232 national security probe into steel imports and is expected to provide its recommendations to the White House in the next few weeks. President Donald Trump signed a memorandum in late April asking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to prioritize the probe, which could result in higher tariffs for Chinese and other foreign steel firms, to the benefit of the U.S. steel industry.

Steel consumer groups, such as the automotive and oil and natural gas sectors, have warned they would be hurt if Trump were to impose broad-based steel tariffs and warned of possible trade retaliation.   

AFS in its May comments to the agency highlighted the importance of steel foundries to our national defense, including key castings that are required for a number of our weapon systems and military transport vehicles.  In addition, we underscored the foreign import challenges, particularly from China, facing the steel foundry industry as well.

After Commerce issues its recommendations, the president has 90 days to take action under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.  The statute gives the president flexibility to impose trade restrictions, which may take the form of tariffs, tariff-rate quotas, import fees and voluntary restraint agreements.

Trump Administration Lays Groundwork to Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement 
In May, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) notified Congress that President Donald Trump intends to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The notice started a 90-day waiting period before U.S. negotiators can officially sit down with their counterparts in Mexico and Canada. A series of public hearings were held at the end of June.

Negotiations are expected to commence in mid-August. USTR Robert Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee that while they would like to get something done by year’s end, he also acknowledges that is a quick timeframe. The Administration must release its negotiating NAFTA objectives by July 17 on the USTR website if it intends to begin talks on August 16.  

New Executive Order on Apprenticeships Signed by President - In June, President Donald Trump announced significant changes to federal apprenticeship programs, which are the center of the White House workforce training initiatives. In order to address the growing skills gap manufacturers are facing in its workforce, the Executive Order will permit third-party entities, including trade groups, labor unions and businesses, to take over the role of developing apprenticeship programs instead of the U.S. Department of Labor.  The executive order will also double the amount of money for apprenticeship grants, from $90 million to nearly $200 million a year.  As the process to change these apprenticeship programs begins, AFS will keep member companies apprised.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers released a proposal at the end of June to repeal the 2015 Waters of the United States (U.S.) rule, put in place under former President Barack Obama. The rule updated the federal Clean Water Act to define what waterways - including streams, rivers and other bodies - can be regulated by the federal government, stirring opposition from the manufacturing, agriculture, construction and energy sectors.  The agency is expected to reinstate the language of the rule before it was changed in 2015. The rule had been placed on hold in 2015 by a federal court appeals court.

DOL Withdraws Joint Employer and Independent Contractor Guidance 
In June, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the withdrawal of two 2015 and 2016 Wage and Hour Administration informal guidance on joint employment and independent contractors. While they were not binding law, they did represent a significant shift in wage and hour law issued by the Obama administration, and served as the justification for taking certain enforcement actions.  A 2015 guidance on misclassification offered a test to determine whether an employee was wrongly classified an independent contractor.  A 2016 guidance on joint employment  advised how to establish whether one business controlled or supervised the employees of another business to the extent that DOL would consider both businesses to be their employers.