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May 12, 2017

CONGERS, N.Y.—The Masters Association of Metal Finishers (MAMF), which consists of finishing shops in the New York and New Jersey area, will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a Centennial Celebration on Saturday, April 8. The organization is gearing up for the celebration, highlighting 100 years of service to its community of industrial finishers.

MAMF was formed in 1917 and is one of the oldest surface finishing associations in the US, formed shortly after American Electroplaters Society formed in 1913. The organization works to educate and promote the metal finishing industry, and supports local and federal regulations governing environmental and worker protection policies.

Serving as an affiliate of the National Association of Surface Finishers (NASF), MAMF operates to provide a localized voice and serve as an advocate on issues impacting the metal finishing industry.

May 11, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—After multiple delays, the anti-retaliation provisions of a new OSHA rule went into effect in December after a federal judge rejected an industry request for an injunction to further postpone their implementation.

The “Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” was originally set to go into effect in August, but was delayed until November. Then it was again pushed back to December amid legal challenges from employers and organizations, including the Associated Builders and Contractors and the National Association of Manufacturers.

The suit against OSHA, which centers around several controversial provisions, including one barring some post-accident drug testing, will go on, and the federal judge’s refusal to issue a preliminary injunction does not mean the rule will necessarily withstand the challenge. It does, however, mean that OSHA may begin enforcing the rule as planned, unless and until the court rules against it in the suit. Judge Sam Lindsay issued his ruling on the preliminary injunction request on November 28, 2016.

The new rule has two main parts: an electronic recordkeeping and reporting requirement for on-the-job injuries and illnesses, and a set of anti-retaliation requirements. The anti-retaliation provisions seek to protect employees from actions that could be taken by an employer in retaliation for reporting an injury or illness.

Some employers have argued that the rules go too far, and in some cases are unenforceable. Under the new rule, for example, an employer is prohibited from administering a drug test to an employee after a workplace incident, unless “drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident,” and only if “the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.” The aim is to ensure that employees don’t keep quiet about a workplace injury for fear of being subject to a drug test. But, as legal experts have pointed out, most tests cannot determine impairment at the time of the incident, only how much of a drug is in the individual’s system at the time of the test. And there’s no strict definition of when drug use is likely to have contributed to an incident. Industry groups have argued that OSHA is wrong to want to prevent drug testing after workplace incidents, when drug testing can be an important tool in analyzing what went wrong.

Other aspects of the anti-retaliation provisions include banning practices like rewards (such as pizza parties) when a workplace goes a given period of time without a reported injury, because such practices could discourage employees from reporting incidents.

While the plaintiffs in the suit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, sought to delay the enforcement of the rule until the court could come to a decision on its legality, Judge Lindsay ruled that they did not show that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if the rule was enforced in the interim. Analysts note that Judge Lindsay, in his ruling, did not suggest that the plaintiffs lack a case, simply that they could not meet the burden of proof necessary to put an immediate stop to enforcement.

May 9, 2017

BOSTON, Mass.—New coatings could produce a range of colors based on nanostructures rather than pigments, says a group of researchers at work on a thin, scratch-resistant coating they say could be a real revolution. The team, led by Harvard University’s Henning Galinski and including researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) and ETH Zurich (Switzerland), released its findings in the journal Light: Science & Applications.

This is not the first research foray into color-changing coatings, or the underpinning idea of structural coloration, but the team says it’s a major step toward scalable versions of the technology, which could have applications from buildings to cars and airplanes.

The idea of structural coloration involves biological nanostructures that allow seemingly colorless materials to reflect light in ways that create a colorful appearance. That is, color that’s in the structure itself, rather than a pigment or dye. It’s how we see color in some plant materials, insects, and birds like peacocks or the plum-throated cotinga, which served as an inspiration for the researchers on the coating project.

The new development, according to King Abdullah University, involves spraying a platinum aluminum alloy onto the substrate, then removing most of the aluminum and ultimately combining dealloyed subwavelength structures at the nanoscale with loss-less, ultrathin dielectrics coatings.

The coating starts out transparent. Then, an ultrathin layer of sapphire is infused into the coating. Sapphire is an especially hard mineral, already used in glass to make scratch-resistant windows and screens for electronics. The sapphire lends hardness and abrasion resistance to the coated surface, and also engenders the color-shifting abilities of the coating. The thickness of the sapphire determines the color the coating takes on, because the sapphire particles fill nanopores in the coating in different ways at different thicknesses. Changing the thickness of the layer at the nano scale can generate any desired color, and because the coloration is part of the material structure, it won’t fade.

Unlike recent developments in coatings that could change color on demand, the coating isn’t ever-changing. It can, however, be tailored to any color needed, without pigments or additives. The color can be programmed into the coating as it is applied, meaning one batch of coating material could create any number of colors using the same process. Because the coating is thin, durable, and can produce any color on demand, it could be used for architectural applications and beyond. The researchers say the technology could find a place in the automotive recoat industry or even aerospace coatings.

May 8, 2017

CLEVELAND, Ohio—Following an article suggesting that the pending merger between The Sherwin-Williams Co. and Valspar was facing regulatory complications, both companies have announced that the deal remains on track and on schedule. The New York Post published an article last October citing an unnamed source in saying that a recent round of concessions offered by Sherwin-Williams had been rejected by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In response, the two companies issued a joint statement indicating that they are cooperating with the FTC and continue to expect the transaction to close by the end of the first quarter of 2017. If the proposed merger goes forward as planned, it would create a company with $15.6 billion in sales and $2.8 billion in adjusted earnings annually.

May 4, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The EPA is moving swiftly to propose how it will prioritize and evaluate chemicals, given that the final processes must be in place within the first year of the new law’s enactment, or before June 22, 2017. For the first time in 40 years, chemicals currently in the marketplace will be assessed.

When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976, it grandfathered in thousands of unevaluated chemicals that were in commerce at the time. The old law failed to provide EPA with the tools to evaluate chemicals and to require companies to generate and provide data on chemicals they produced. EPA is proposing three rules to help administer the new process — the Inventory rule, the Prioritization rule, and the Risk Evaluation rule. These three rules incorporate comments received from a series of public meetings held in August 2016.

There are currently over 85,000 chemicals on EPA’s Inventory, many of these are no longer actively produced. The Inventory rule will require manufacturers, including importers, to notify EPA and the public on the number of chemicals still being produced.

The Prioritization rule will establish how EPA will prioritize chemicals for evaluation. EPA will use a risk-based screening process and criteria to identify whether a particular chemical is either high or low priority. A chemical designated as high-priority must undergo evaluation. Chemicals designated as low-priority are not required to undergo evaluation.

The Risk Evaluation rule will establish how EPA will evaluate the risk of existing chemicals. The agency will identify steps for the risk evaluation process, including publishing the scope of the assessment. Chemical hazards and exposures will be assessed along with characterizing and determining risks. This rule also outlines how the agency intends to seek public comment on chemical evaluations.

If EPA identifies unreasonable risk in the evaluation, it is required to eliminate that risk through regulations. Under TSCA, the agency must have at least 20 ongoing risk evaluations by the end of 2019.

May 3, 2017

June 6-7: Powder Coating 101 Workshop. Houston, Tex. Sponsored by the Powder Coating Institute (PCI). Contact PCI at 859/525-9988; fax 859/356-0908; pci-info@powdercoating.org; www.powdercoating.org.

May 2, 2017

NANYANG, Singapore—Researchers are looking at coating material microstructures in order to make protective coatings even tougher. The team at A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology, and Research) has discovered how hard materials like chromium nitride, which are used as wear and corrosion protection coatings, behave when used in high-stress situations. This knowledge could lead to producing even better coatings.

Resistance to wear can be improved by increasing a material’s hardness—that is, the force it can withstand before it begins to deform. In most crystalline materials, this deformation occurs when defects (known as dislocations) start to move through a material’s crystal structure. Materials used in coatings tend to be very brittle. However, past research has shown that it can be very difficult to break crystals that are extremely small. This inspired Shiyu Liu and his team from the A*STAR Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology to see how chromium nitride based coatings deform under pressure.

After forming microscopic pillars of the materials, measuring about 380 nanometers across, they compressed the structures under a diamond flat punch in a scanning electron microscope at temperatures up to 932°F. The team found that chromium nitride based coatings made with very fine grains, those about 10 nanometers in size and separated by a thin grain boundary phase, withstood a much greater force before they deformed. In fact, deformation began at stresses very much higher than expected, and close to the theoretical maximum value from calculation. Liu’s team explains that this increase in stress resistance became evident when the grains were so small they did not contain dislocations; as a result, the applied forces had to be sufficiently large to form new dislocations within the grains. Moreover, the thin grain boundary phase was originally thought to be the main factor in determining the material’s properties. However, their research demonstrates this was not the case. As a result, this can provide a way to reliably make a hard material.

The team’s results show that the formation of a fine-grained microstructure could provide a ceramic coating with enhanced hardness and fracture toughness. Liu notes that this could be a viable approach for the development of super-hard and tough protective coatings for high-temperature and high-pressure applications.

The team plans to use the results in advanced manufacturing and engineering applications, such as protective coatings in high-speed machining tools for titanium and nickel-based alloys.

May 1, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Paint and coatings manufacturer PPG, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., is facing more than $92,000 in penalties related to worker safety issues at its facility in Westlake, La., after an employee complaint prompted a federal agency to investigate in April 2016.

The inspection resulted in citations alleging nine serious and two other-than-serious violations. OSHA inspectors reportedly found employees exposed to hazards such as corrosive materials and a leaking, 30,000-gallon hot water tank. The facility produces precipitated silicas for use in a variety of industrial and consumer applications. The citation was issued in October.

April 27, 2017

CLEVELAND, Ohio—DVUV Holdings LLC has announced a new corporate name and a reorganization and rebranding of its operating companies. The new corporate name is Keyland Polymer Material Sciences LLC. The new holdings company will include four separate operating companies: Keyland Polymer UV Application Technology LLC, Keyland Polymer UV Resins LTD, Keyland Polymer UV Powder LLC, and DVUV LLC. This new alignment will help solidify the company’s position as a global and leading developer, formulator, manufacturer, and applicator of UV-curable solid material used in UV-cured powder coatings, 3D printing, and other forms of UV-cured solid materials.

Keyland Polymer UV Application Technology offers the latest in UV/EB curing solutions of solid materials used in coatings, 3D/additive materials, and other product applications. Keyland Polymer UV Resins develops, produces, and sells solid polyester, epoxy, and other resin based products used in UV-cured solid materials. Keyland Polymer UV Powder combines UV resins with additives, pigments, and photoinitiators to produce custom and performance specific UV-curable powder coatings for a variety of substrates. DVUV produces and sells powder coated MDF wood components using UV powder.

April 26, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two railcar cleaning facilities in different parts of the US are facing orders from the EPA over their handling of hazardous waste. One company, Dana Container, faces $12,000 in fines as part of a settlement with the EPA over the handling and labeling of containers of waste. The other, Railcar Cleaning Services LLC, has not been fined, but has been ordered to immediately take steps to protect the public from risks posed by allegedly improperly stored crude oil and ethanol.

Dana Container, Wilmington, Dela., entered into a settlement over its violations in October. The allegations stemmed from a January 2016 inspection that the EPA says uncovered violations related to hazardous materials such as benzene, vinyl acetate, and waste solvent. Allegations against Dana Container include violations of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) related to the failure to ship hazardous waste offsite in a timely manner, failure to keep proper records, and failure to maintain an adequate contingency plan. As part of the settlement, Dana Container did not admit liability, but certified compliance on the matters cited by the EPA.

The EPA issued what it calls an Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Administrative Order to Nebraska Railcar. The order, made under the RCRA, calls for the company to immediately engage in hazardous waste determinations at its sites, and dispose of hazardous materials as required by law. The EPA order references a deadly incident in April 2015 in which two workers were killed in an explosion at one of Nebraska Railcar’s Omaha facilities. That incident led OSHA to issue 33 violations to the company, carrying a total proposed fine of $963,000, and to place Nebraska Railcar in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Those violations, issued in October 2015, are still listed as under contest.

At the time, OSHA alleged that air quality in confined spaces was not properly monitored, and workers at the site were not properly fit-tested for respirators. Other violations related to fall hazards, lack of hazardous materials training, and more. In 2013, the company paid a total of $6,856 as part of two informal settlements with OSHA, covering a total of eight violations (three serious and five other). In 2015, as a result of a follow-up inspection, the company faced three more violations, which, after an informal settlement, cost the firm $3,800.

The agency says more recent onsite inspections indicate that the company continues to improperly manage its hazardous waste, contrary to RCRA requirements. The company is ordered to immediately address the issues presented, and to provide regular reports on its waste disposal practices to EPA Region 7. Failure to comply could result in civil penalties of at least $14,023 per violation per day.

April 24, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—OSHA has issued Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs in Construction to help industry employers develop proactive programs to keep their workplaces safe. The recommendations may be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized contractors who lack safety and health specialists on staff.

Safety and health programs encourage finding and fixing workplace hazards before they cause injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Implementing these programs also helps reduce the financial difficulties these events can cause for workers, their families, and their employers. Contractors can create a safety and health program using a number of simple steps that include training workers on how to identify and control hazards, inspecting the jobsite with workers to identify problems with equipment and materials, and developing responses to possible emergency scenarios in advance.

The recommended practices for a safety and health program are flexible and can be adjusted to fit small and large construction companies handling short-term or multi-year projects. Working with employees to implement a program can offer other benefits including improvements in production and quality, greater employee morale, improved employee recruiting and retention, and a more favorable image and reputation among customers, suppliers, and the community. These recommendations are advisory only and do not create any new legal obligations or alter existing obligations created by OSHA standards or regulations.

April 21, 2017

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.—Surface preparation equipment manufacturer and distributor Blastrac Global has acquired Nilfisk Cyclone Technology from the Nilfisk Group. The company is now considered a wholly owned subsidiary of Blastrac Global and will be known as Cyclone Technology LLC.

Cyclone Technology, Tempe, Ariz., manufactures high-pressure and low-pressure surface preparation and cleaning equipment using proprietary and patented technology. Certain models in its high-pressure line were developed for paint and marking removal, surface preparation, and seal coat removal. Products in its low-pressure line are for coated surfaces, elastomeric coatings, thermoplastic markings, and more.

April 20, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A masonry company terminated a plant manager less than two weeks after it hired him after the manager repeatedly reported air quality and other safety and health hazards to upper management at the company’s Middletown, Pa., plant in 2014. York Building Products has entered into a settlement agreement with the US Department of Labor whereby the company will pay a total of $135,000 in back wages and compensatory damages to the terminated employee. The settlement resolves a whistleblower investigation conducted by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The company is one of the nation’s largest producers of masonry units.

The terminated manager filed two complaints with OSHA. One complaint alleged safety and health hazards at the plant, and the other complaint alleged the company fired him in retaliation for reporting these hazards. During its safety and health investigation of the plant, OSHA inspectors identified 38 violations, resulting in $38,880 in fines. Air samplings collected in the investigation showed that certain plant employees had been exposed to silica dust at amounts up to 14 times greater than permissible exposure limits. Extended exposure to silica dust can leave workers at risk of developing silicosis, a disabling, nonreversible, and sometimes fatal lung disease. It may also cause other nonmalignant respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and kidney disease.

The whistleblower investigation found the company violated the antidiscrimination provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it terminated the former plant manager. In addition to paying the back wages and damages, under this whistleblower settlement, York Building Products is required to provide supervisors with antiretaliation training at the location where the terminated employee worked. The company must also post the OSHA poster entitled “Job Safety and Health, It’s The Law.”

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise concerns about health and safety hazards in the workplace to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conducted may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

April 19, 2017

May 2-3: ASTM Corrosion Testing: Application and Use of Salt Fog, Humidity, Cyclic, and Gas Tests. Akron Polymer Training Center, Akron, Ohio. Sponsored by ASTM International. Contact ASTM at 610/832-9585; fax 610/832-95555; service@astm.org; www.astm.org.

May 2-3: Powder Coating 202 Workshop. Indianapolis, Ind. Sponsored by the Powder Coating Institute (PCI). Contact PCI at 859/525-9988; fax 859/356-0908; pci-info@powdercoating.org; www.powdercoating.org.

May 8-11: Paint Technology. PRA Coatings Technology Centre, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, UK. Sponsored by PRA. Contact the PRA training team at training@pra-world.com ; www.pra-world.com/training.

May 10-12: Polymer Compounding, Formulating, and Testing of Plastics, Rubber, Adhesives, and Coatings. Akron Polymer Training Center, Akron, Ohio. Sponsored by the University of Akron. Contact the training center at 330/972-8303; fax 330/972-8141; aptc@uakron.edu; www.uakron.edu/aptc.

May 23-25: Color Theory and Applications. Akron Polymer Training Center, Akron, Ohio. Sponsored by the University of Akron. Contact the training center at 330/972-8303; fax 330/972-8141; aptc@uakron.edu; www.uakron.edu/aptc.

April 18, 2017

WILMINGTON, Dela.—Another roadblock has popped up for The Dow Chemical Company and DuPont as their proposed merger remains under review by European regulators. According to reports, the two companies have once again failed to provide crucial data to European antitrust regulators. This has forced the European Commission to suspend its review of the proposed $130 billion merger between the companies for the second time.

The two chemical industry giants announced in December 2015 that they plan to unite in a “merger of equals.” The plan has since been subject to regulatory hurdles worldwide due to the global nature of both corporations’ business.

The European Commission, an agency conducting an in-depth review to ensure the merger falls within European antitrust laws and other regulations, said it has once again paused its review because of missing documentation. The nature of the missing paperwork was not disclosed. A spokesperson for DuPont stated that the companies are remaining confident and focused on closing the deal in the first quarter of 2017, subject to approvals.

As previously reported, the companies plan to form a new entity, DowDuPont Inc., that would later split into three separate independent, publicly traded companies focused on material science, agriculture, and specialty products. The paints and coatings industry has focused on the side of the deal that will combine the two chemical and coatings titans. The EC’s concerns, however, lay on the agricultural side of the business, saying the proposed merger would create the world’s largest integrated crop protection and seeds company. EU officials were expected to decide on the deal in February (a decision had not been made at press time).

Meanwhile, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has also voiced concerns about the planned merger, calling for submissions from interested parties. The ACCC is concerned about the effect that the proposed merger may have on competition for a diverse range of products, including insecticides, seeds, and materials science products. The concerns exist because the companies produce products that overlap in many categories. Specifically, the ACCC notes that the companies may be the only potential suppliers of ionomer and acid copolymer materials to plastics manufacturers in Australia. Thus, the merger would remove competition, which could potentially be a detriment to Australian customers. The ACCC was to make its final decision on the merger sometime in February (a decision had not been made at press time).

April 17, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Stakeholders on both sides of the controversial new overtime rule that would make overtime pay available to 4.2 million workers continue to hash out its future in the court system.

Originally set to take effect on December 1, a federal judge ruled to put a hold on the controversial rule on November 22. Business groups and officials from 21 states sued the Obama Administration in the US District Court of Eastern District of Texas, seeking to block and overturn the rule. They claimed the rule would place a heavy burden on their budgets and that the Labor Department overstepped its authority.

US District Judge Amos Mazzant III issued a preliminary injunction in the case following a hearing on the request held November 16. In its review, the court determined that the business associations and states demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the Labor Department exceeded its rulemaking authority, and further satisfied all requirements to issue a nationwide injunction.

In response, the Labor Department filed an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Labor Department has long argued the rule stood on “sound legal and policy footing,” noting that the legal challenges were attempts to deprive workers of fair pay.

Construction is one of the major industries where the new rule will have the biggest impact. Yet, construction industry trade groups were not pleased with the sweeping changes, arguing that the measure would backfire and hurt workers.

Overtime protections require employers to pay one-and-a-half times an employee’s regular rate of pay for any work past 40 hours a week. The rule follows a March 13, 2014, Presidential Memorandum directing the Labor Department to update the overtime standards. Most significantly, the final rule, which altered the Fair Labor Standards Act, raised the salary threshold indicating overtime eligibility from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week ($47,476 per year).

The rule also updated the total annual compensation level above which most white collar workers will be ineligible for overtime, raising the level from the current $100,000 per year, to $134,004 per year. Under the new rule, the salary thresholds would have automatically updated every three years, based on wage growth over time, which would help to increase predictability, according to officials. Those updates were set to begin January 1, 2020.

April 14, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—More than 4,400 environmental educators will gain training and leadership opportunities in 2017 through a new cooperative agreement between the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). EPA is funding up to $10.8 million over 5 years through the agency’s teacher training program, formally known as the National Environmental Education Training Program (NEETP). The 5-year program, which is called ee360, began in 2017.

“Environmental educators help learners of all ages understand and value the ecosystems around them,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “The teacher training program gives educators access to the best classroom and out-of-classroom materials and professional development opportunities, focused on using the environment as a platform for learning science, technology, engineering, and math skills to improve decision-making.”

NAAEE is bringing together a broad collection of partners for this program: Antioch University, the Center for Diversity and the Environment, Earth Force, the NAAEE Affiliate Network, Project Learning Tree, Stanford University, the University of Oregon, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Bureau of Land Management, the US National Park Service, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Forest Service.

NAAEE and these partners will train professionals to deliver high-quality environmental education in formal and nonformal education settings. In the first year, ee360 aims to train more than 4,400 educators. The partners will also strengthen the field by building infrastructure through leadership clinics, developing state certification programs, using technology, expanding access to resources, and researching the value of environmental education.

Since 1992, EPA’s teacher training program has funded training, helped universities and states develop accredited certification programs, and promoted the national Environmental Education Guidelines for Excellence.

April 13, 2017

TAYLOR MILL, Ky.—The Powder Coating Institute (PCI), Taylor Mill, Ky., has announced its 2017 Board of Directors and Executive Officers. Serving as officers are Ron Cudzilo, George Koch Sons, president; Chris Merritt, Gema USA, vice president; Greg Dawson, Nordson Corp., secretary/treasurer; and John Sudges, Midwest Finishing Systems, past president.

In addition to the officers, serving as directors are John Cole, Parker Ionics; Kevin Coursin, Engineered Finishing Systems; Craig Dietz, Axalta Coating Systems; Steve Kiefer, Akzo Nobel Coatings Inc.; Mark Mortensen, All-Color Powder Coating Inc.; Suresh Patel, Chemetall US Inc.; Paul West, Sun Polymers International Inc.; and David Goch, Webster, Chamberlain & Bean. PCI is a nonprofit technical and professional association that provides information and education on powder coating technologies worldwide.

April 12, 2017

BROOK PARK, Ohio—Greenkote PLC has more than doubled capacity at its headquarters production facility in Ohio. Over the past year, the company saw a steady increase in orders for anticorrosion and metal protection coatings. The new state-of-the-art coating line will multiply current capacity by nearly two and a half times, enabling the Brook Park facility to process more than 150 tons of parts per month. It will also provide for the application of specialized topcoats and sealers to the company’s coatings to further enhance coating performance. Greenkote provides coating services for construction, automotive, rail, utilities, and a range of other industries where products are exposed to harsh and corrosive environments.

April 11, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Donald Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan has shown itself to be a popular idea, but perhaps not an easy one to translate into reality. While Republicans and Democrats can agree that infrastructure has been neglected in the US in recent years, the conflict begins when the discussion turns to how to fund improvements.

One early hurdle in putting together a major infrastructure plan is deciding what infrastructure refers to. While it no doubt means roads, bridges, tunnels, and transit, there are other issues that could fall under the umbrella as well. As the Chicago Tribune recently reported, elected officials and private companies have made cases for many investments that they consider to be critical infrastructure for the country. That could include projects as diverse as oil and gas pipelines, communication networks, public street lights, drinking water systems, public parks, and affordable housing. If the White House decides to use tax credits as a form of subsidy for private investment in infrastructure projects, it may first have to set guidelines defining exactly what counts and what does not.

The next question is where the money to fund the big plan will come from. Right now, there are few details, and some analysts say the claim that the plan will pay for itself is dubious. Funding could come in one (or a mix) of several forms. One idea is to use tax credits to encourage private investors to put their money into infrastructure upgrade projects. This is, essentially, a stimulus package, in which the expenditures would in theory be made back in the form of new jobs generated and tax revenue. Another idea is a one-time tax windfall from corporations with overseas assets. That tax could raise $150 billion over a 10-year period, according to analysts, which could put a dent in the infrastructure plan.

Yet another idea is an infrastructure bank, where state and local governments and public-private partnerships would bankroll infrastructure improvements. The money would eventually be paid back, though that’s one of the concerns experts have. Some say that an infrastructure bank that relies on complete repayment would lead states and private entities to make their infrastructure investments into money generators.

Despite a highly partisan political environment, Republicans and Democrats have routinely worked in a bipartisan manner to support infrastructure legislation. In fact, all sides should view a long-term infrastructure package as an opportunity for the two parties to come together and make meaningful progress for the American people.

April 10, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems.

The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries. OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls. The final rule also increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries.

OSHA estimates the final rule will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule became effective on January 17 and will affect approximately 112 million workers at 7 million worksites.

The final rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994, and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry. Other changes include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level, prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system, and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions by setting and enforcing standard, and providing training, education, and assistance.