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Newsletter
Volume 87
February 1, 2011
Reminder: Time to Post Your 300A
It's time to complete your 2010 injury and illness recordkeeping obligations by posting the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A). OSHA requires that the notice be displayed from February 1st to April 30th of each year in a conspicuous place where employee notices are customarily posted. A company official must certify the information in Form 300A was examined and is believed to be correct and complete. Click here to access the form and instructions.
Website Login Countdown: 48 Hours Left to Re-Set Your Password
The launch of the new website last October eliminated the need for social security numbers to be used as passwords. Each person registered for the website was asked to reset their password and validate their E-mail address during the annual compliance visit. The annual compliance visits have now all been completed and all passwords should have been reset by January 31, 2011. Please Notice: At the close of business on Wednesday, February 3, 2011, anyone that has not reset their password will be purged from the active list - requiring them to re-register to access the website. The website requires the new personalized format password (must contain 8-16 characters, with at least 1 number and letter) starting February 1st and will no longer accept social security numbers for security reasons.
Special Permit Update on SP-13554
Facilities with nurse tanks used for anhydrous ammonia and who have operated under The Fertilizer Institute's (TFI) Special Permit SP-13554, should be closely monitoring the impending change by DOT. Facilities covered under TFI's SP-13554 originally received confirmation they may continue to operate under the permit that expired on October 31, 2010 until DOT takes final action to incorporate the special permit into the regulations. DOT published the final rule in today's Federal Register outlining the transition from a Special Permit to a performance-oriented regulation. DOT's Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued the proposal last year to incorporate six special permits into federal DOT regulation. Among the special permits recommended for incorporation were two special permits held by TFI on behalf of its members. SP-13554 has been in effect since 2005 and authorizes nurse tanks with missing or illegible ASME data plates to continue to operate, pending the successful completion of certain tests and inspections. SP-10950 has been in effect since 1993 and authorizes nurse tanks to be securely mounted on field trucks in the Pacific Northwest.
As a result of the final rule, nurse tanks with missing or illegible data plates enrolled in the NTIP program and operating under SP-13554 will no longer need to be marked with the special permit number. Nurse tanks with missing or illegible data plates will however still need to undergo the hydrostatic, visual, thickness testing and pass all inspections in order to remain in service and must be marked with the month and year the test was completed along with the corresponding tests passed such as V,T,P. The effective date of the rule is March 3, 2011 but voluntary compliance can begin at any time. We encourage you to review the final rule, especially the sections pertaining to SP-13554 and SP-10950. Click here for the Final Rule.
NTIP Status Report: Watch your mail for the NTIP annual report of registered tanks that was recently sent to each facility with tanks enrolled in TFI's SP-13554 program. Now that the requirements of SP-13554 have been published as a performance-oriented rule and the special permit is no longer needed, the Asmark Institute will solidify plans to continue to offer the NTIP database to our clients. We will continue to track nurse tanks and provide an annual accounting to serve as a reminder for when tanks need to be re-inspected and tested. The NTIP Kits will be re-fashioned to contain just what is needed to meet the new requirements and should result in the cost of the kit being reduced.
Special Permit Reminder: NTIP Addendums Due February 3, 2011! DOT revised the information they required to be recorded on the NTIP inspection forms last summer and upon notifying the regulated community, gave them until February 3, 2011 to add the information to their inspection forms. Do you have your NTIP addendums completed and on file for every nurse tank in the NTIP program? It is essential the paperwork be complete and available to a DOT auditor for each tank covered by SP-13554. For more information on the NTIP program contact Dustin Warder at 270-926-4600, Extension 203 or by email at dustin@asmark.org.
New Course Pioneered for Anhydrous Ammonia
February 14-16, 2011 will mark the first training course designed and built specifically for the personnel responsible for the maintenance and repair of anhydrous ammonia installations and field equipment. Believed to be the first of its kind, the course literally spans three days and provides hands-on training using real equipment. Virtually an entire ammonia installation has been moved indoors for this course. The course will be offered 12 times a year and taught by Gary Grant, Parts Manager at Ohio Valley Ag in Owensboro, Kentucky. Gary has over 30 years of experience in the field of installation, repair and maintenance of anhydrous ammonia equipment.
Need for the course has been growing over the years. Ammonia courses currently offered in the United States are primarily geared around safety and handling procedures with only a small amount on equipment. Underscoring the need for this type of training is the marked reduction in the amount of information passed down between generations, especially when it comes to the maintenance and repair of anhydrous ammonia equipment. Incident investigations from recent years involving ammonia equipment reveal that improperly installed and/or maintained equipment is present and a contributing factor in a substantial number of accidental releases.
We'll have more information on this course in the future. Plans are to offer 12 courses annually during the time period from June through January. Our thanks goes out to Ted Clapp, Denis Doonan, Steve Cundiff, Louie Foster, James Moore, Sam Murphy and Billy Pirkle for their help and expertise in developing this special course.
No Surprise: OSHA Enforcement arrow Compliance Assistance arrow
OMB Watch, an organization that touts transparency within government, recently published a report detailing the change in direction of OSHA enforcement. The report finds that the number of citations is up, willful violations have skyrocketed and focus is shifting toward high-risk sectors as well as repeat violators. There doesn't seem to have been a significant increase in the number of OSHA inspections. OMB Watch explains that emphasis on compliance assistance has dropped since the recent change in direction.
Mandatory Use of New Form for USDOT Alcohol Testing Now in Place
The DOT deadline for the mandatory use of its recently updated Alcohol Testing Form (ATF) was January 1, 2011. Changes to the form included:
  • Updated Paperwork Reduction Act Burden Statement;
  • New DOT form number;
  • Additional instructions on the reverse side of page 3; and
  • Results box text is smaller font and has been moved.
The revised ATF went into effect on February 25, 2010, with an immediate voluntary use and an initial mandatory use date of August 1, 2010. After publishing the February 25th revisions, USDOT learned that vendors and users of the ATF were not able to deplete their current supply of ATFs by August 1, 2010. Therefore, in order to assist the transportation industries and their service agents in their efforts to be economically efficient and more environmentally "green," USDOT extended the mandatory use date to January 1, 2011.
DHS Scraps Color-Coded Alert System
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will discontinue the color-coded alerts in favor of a new system, the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), that will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs, and the private sector. The new system will be implemented over the next 90 days. This new system is said to be built on a clear and simple premise.
Proposal Bans Drivers From Using Cell Phones
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently proposed a rule to specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a hand-held cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Approximately four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal. Once the rule is finalized, drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver's license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver's CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use. Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000. FMCSA explains that many of the largest carriers already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones. Last September, FMCSA issued a final rule banning text messaging while operating a CMV. Initial comments are due on or before February 22nd. To learn more about the DOT's efforts to stop distracted driving, go to www.distraction.gov.
Hours of Service Changes Proposed
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a proposal to revise the hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for commercial truck drivers as required by a court settlement agreement. The proposal includes seven changes from the current requirements. They are:
  • Limiting drivers to either 10 or 11 hours of driving time following a period of at least 10 consecutive hours off duty;
  • Limiting the standard "driving window" to 14 hours, while allowing that number to be extended to 16 hours twice a week;
  • Limiting actual duty time within the driving window to 13 hours;
  • Permitting drivers to drive only if seven hours or less have passed since their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes;
  • Restraining the 34-hour restart, subject to certain limits:
    • The restart would have to include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m., and
    • The restart could be started no sooner than seven days after the beginning of the previously designated restart;
  • Revising the definition of "on duty" to allow some time spent in or on the CMV to be logged as off duty;
  • Revising the oilfield operations exception to clarify the language on waiting time and to state that waiting time would not be included in the calculation of the driving window.
The proposal does not change the 10-hour off-duty requirement, the 60/70-hour limits, or the sleeper-berth provisions. FMCSA will accept comments through February 28, 2011, and expects to publish a final HOS rule by the court-imposed deadline of July 26, 2011.
Guidance on Electronic Signatures Published by FMCSA
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued regulatory guidance on January 4, 2011 concerning the use of electronic signatures and documents to comply with FMCSA regulations. The guidance provides the motor carrier industry, federal, state and local motor carrier enforcement officials with uniform information regarding DOT's acceptance of electronic signature on documents required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. All prior agency interpretations and regulatory guidance, including memoranda and letters, may no longer be relied upon to the extent they are inconsistent with this guidance. This regulatory guidance was effective January 4, 2011, when it appeared in the Federal Register. Note: This may open the door for the Asmark Institute to develop a system where electronic signatures could be used on Driver Qualification File documents.
NIOSH Releases Alert on Skid-Steer Loaders
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers found that employers, supervisors and workers may not fully appreciate the potential hazards associated with operating or working near skid-steer loaders. NIOSH recently released a Special Alert to assist employers in preventing injuries and deaths among workers who operate, service, or work near skid-steer loaders.
According to NIOSH, the following steps should be taken to protect employees who operate or work near skid-steer loaders:
Always:
  • Follow safe operating procedures
  • Enter and exit from the loader safely
  • Maintain the machine in safe operating condition
Never:
  • Modify or bypass safety devices
  • Carry riders
  • Use foot or hand controls as steps or handholds
  • Modify or bypass safety devices
  • Exceed the manufacturer's recommended load capacity
Workplace-Noise Rule Gets Shelved
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on the Obama administration saying it is shelving a proposed change to workplace noise standards, following strong opposition to the proposals from manufacturers and some lawmakers. The move came one day after President Barack Obama ordered executive agencies to review all pending regulations and assess whether they were overly burdensome to business. OSHA said it will withdraw a proposal to toughen requirements for what employers had to provide to protect workers' hearing in loud environments, by changing its interpretation of what would be "feasible" for them. Employers are currently allowed to provide personal protective gear, such as ear plugs, rather than installing noise-dampening equipment or limiting the amount of time that workers can spend in noisy areas, if it is more cost-effective for them. OSHA was considering whether to require that employers prove that they would be put out of business by taking more expensive measures. Trade groups and lawmakers indicated the cost of complying with the proposals would stop them from hiring additional workers.
OSHA Releases Agenda for 2011
Fourteen final rules and five proposed rules are projected to move forward based on OSHA's semi-annual regulatory agenda for 2011. OSHA is in the process of developing a rule requiring employers to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. The agency is planning to convene a small business panel in June 2011. Specifically for agribusinesses, Hazard Communication, Cooperative Agreements are at the final rulemaking stage with Walking Working Surfaces, Personal Fall Protection Systems, Combustible Dust and revisions to the Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements are at the proposed rulemaking stage. Click here for the complete agenda.
Will "Mobile Payments" Be the End of Credit Cards?
While companies have been experimenting with "contactless" mobile payments for years, 2011 is expected to be the year the technology really takes off. That's because millions of phones capable of making "contactless" payments are expected to be shipped out in 2011. As a result, this pay-by-phone market is forecast to make up $22 billion in transactions by 2015, up from "practically none" last year. Meanwhile, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon joined forces with Discover and Barclays in November to form Isis and provide a rival to Visa and MasterCard.
Carol Browner Resigns
CropLife America reports that Carol M. Browner, Chief Climate and Energy Adviser (and "Czar") to President Barack Obama, said she plans to leave her position at the White House. The announcement comes as a surprise to many and Browner insists that her reason for leaving is nothing more than just the right time to move on. Browner was deeply involved in last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and in congressional negotiations over climate legislation, and environmentalists that valued her input will undoubtedly feel her departure the most, noting that her exit coincides with Obama's recent outreach to industry.
Looking for a Loan? Call a CPA, Then Call Your Banker
Looking for a small-business loan? Research shows that an audit by a certified public accountant can significantly boost your chance of approval - and decrease the cost of that capital. For an average-size loan of $3.3 million, audited businesses save about $23,000 because of lower interest rates, according to a study from the University of Chicago.
Tax Deadline is April 18th in 2011
Taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18th to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15th. By law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have three extra days to file this year.
Food Safety Bill Signed Into Law
The President signed the most sweeping improvements to food safety law since the 1930s. Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA will have the authority to:
  • Recall food;
  • Evaluate ways to trace food in a foodborne-illness outbreak;
  • Require food facilities to identify, evaluate and address food hazards and prevent adulteration via a food safety plan;
  • Access the internal records of farms and food facilities;
  • Perform an increased number of inspections;
  • Suspend a food facility's registration; and
  • Require importers to verify that products grown and processed overseas meet safety standards.
Most Noteworthy: Ag Department Uproots Science
If the Obama Administration is trying to lose its anti-business reputation, you wouldn't know it from the latest shakedown at the United States Department of Agriculture. In a move that caused jaws to drop in the farm industry, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack invited activists and biotech critics to shape the agency's regulatory decision on a biotech product. If the precedent stands, it could permanently politicize a system that is supposed to be based on science.
2011 Asmark Institute, Inc. This information is believed to be reliable by the Asmark Institute, however, because of constantly changing government regulations, interpretations and applicability or the possibility of human, mechanical or computer error, the Asmark Institute does not guarantee the information as suitable for any particular purpose.
Reminder: Time to Post Your 300A
It's time to complete your 2010 injury and illness recordkeeping obligations by posting the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A). OSHA requires that the notice be displayed from February 1st to April 30th of each year in a conspicuous place where employee notices are customarily posted. A company official must certify the information in Form 300A was examined and is believed to be correct and complete. Click here to access the form and instructions.
Website Login Countdown: 48 Hours Left to Re-Set Your Password
The launch of the new website last October eliminated the need for social security numbers to be used as passwords. Each person registered for the website was asked to reset their password and validate their E-mail address during the annual compliance visit. The annual compliance visits have now all been completed and all passwords should have been reset by January 31, 2011. Please Notice: At the close of business on Wednesday, February 3, 2011, anyone that has not reset their password will be purged from the active list - requiring them to re-register to access the website. The website requires the new personalized format password (must contain 8-16 characters, with at least 1 number and letter) starting February 1st and will no longer accept social security numbers for security reasons.
Special Permit Update on SP-13554
Facilities with nurse tanks used for anhydrous ammonia and who have operated under The Fertilizer Institute's (TFI) Special Permit SP-13554, should be closely monitoring the impending change by DOT. Facilities covered under TFI's SP-13554 originally received confirmation they may continue to operate under the permit that expired on October 31, 2010 until DOT takes final action to incorporate the special permit into the regulations. DOT published the final rule in today's Federal Register outlining the transition from a Special Permit to a performance-oriented regulation. DOT's Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued the proposal last year to incorporate six special permits into federal DOT regulation. Among the special permits recommended for incorporation were two special permits held by TFI on behalf of its members. SP-13554 has been in effect since 2005 and authorizes nurse tanks with missing or illegible ASME data plates to continue to operate, pending the successful completion of certain tests and inspections. SP-10950 has been in effect since 1993 and authorizes nurse tanks to be securely mounted on field trucks in the Pacific Northwest.
As a result of the final rule, nurse tanks with missing or illegible data plates enrolled in the NTIP program and operating under SP-13554 will no longer need to be marked with the special permit number. Nurse tanks with missing or illegible data plates will however still need to undergo the hydrostatic, visual, thickness testing and pass all inspections in order to remain in service and must be marked with the month and year the test was completed along with the corresponding tests passed such as V,T,P. The effective date of the rule is March 3, 2011 but voluntary compliance can begin at any time. We encourage you to review the final rule, especially the sections pertaining to SP-13554 and SP-10950. Click here for the Final Rule.
NTIP Status Report: Watch your mail for the NTIP annual report of registered tanks that was recently sent to each facility with tanks enrolled in TFI's SP-13554 program. Now that the requirements of SP-13554 have been published as a performance-oriented rule and the special permit is no longer needed, the Asmark Institute will solidify plans to continue to offer the NTIP database to our clients. We will continue to track nurse tanks and provide an annual accounting to serve as a reminder for when tanks need to be re-inspected and tested. The NTIP Kits will be re-fashioned to contain just what is needed to meet the new requirements and should result in the cost of the kit being reduced.
Special Permit Reminder: NTIP Addendums Due February 3, 2011! DOT revised the information they required to be recorded on the NTIP inspection forms last summer and upon notifying the regulated community, gave them until February 3, 2011 to add the information to their inspection forms. Do you have your NTIP addendums completed and on file for every nurse tank in the NTIP program? It is essential the paperwork be complete and available to a DOT auditor for each tank covered by SP-13554. For more information on the NTIP program contact Dustin Warder at 270-926-4600, Extension 203 or by email at dustin@asmark.org.
New Course Pioneered for Anhydrous Ammonia
February 14-16, 2011 will mark the first training course designed and built specifically for the personnel responsible for the maintenance and repair of anhydrous ammonia installations and field equipment. Believed to be the first of its kind, the course literally spans three days and provides hands-on training using real equipment. Virtually an entire ammonia installation has been moved indoors for this course. The course will be offered 12 times a year and taught by Gary Grant, Parts Manager at Ohio Valley Ag in Owensboro, Kentucky. Gary has over 30 years of experience in the field of installation, repair and maintenance of anhydrous ammonia equipment.
Need for the course has been growing over the years. Ammonia courses currently offered in the United States are primarily geared around safety and handling procedures with only a small amount on equipment. Underscoring the need for this type of training is the marked reduction in the amount of information passed down between generations, especially when it comes to the maintenance and repair of anhydrous ammonia equipment. Incident investigations from recent years involving ammonia equipment reveal that improperly installed and/or maintained equipment is present and a contributing factor in a substantial number of accidental releases.
We'll have more information on this course in the future. Plans are to offer 12 courses annually during the time period from June through January. Our thanks goes out to Ted Clapp, Denis Doonan, Steve Cundiff, Louie Foster, James Moore, Sam Murphy and Billy Pirkle for their help and expertise in developing this special course.
No Surprise: OSHA Enforcement arrow Compliance Assistance arrow
OMB Watch, an organization that touts transparency within government, recently published a report detailing the change in direction of OSHA enforcement. The report finds that the number of citations is up, willful violations have skyrocketed and focus is shifting toward high-risk sectors as well as repeat violators. There doesn't seem to have been a significant increase in the number of OSHA inspections. OMB Watch explains that emphasis on compliance assistance has dropped since the recent change in direction.
Mandatory Use of New Form for USDOT Alcohol Testing Now in Place
The DOT deadline for the mandatory use of its recently updated Alcohol Testing Form (ATF) was January 1, 2011. Changes to the form included:
  • Updated Paperwork Reduction Act Burden Statement;
  • New DOT form number;
  • Additional instructions on the reverse side of page 3; and
  • Results box text is smaller font and has been moved.
The revised ATF went into effect on February 25, 2010, with an immediate voluntary use and an initial mandatory use date of August 1, 2010. After publishing the February 25th revisions, USDOT learned that vendors and users of the ATF were not able to deplete their current supply of ATFs by August 1, 2010. Therefore, in order to assist the transportation industries and their service agents in their efforts to be economically efficient and more environmentally "green," USDOT extended the mandatory use date to January 1, 2011.
DHS Scraps Color-Coded Alert System
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will discontinue the color-coded alerts in favor of a new system, the National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS), that will more effectively communicate information about terrorist threats by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs, and the private sector. The new system will be implemented over the next 90 days. This new system is said to be built on a clear and simple premise.
Proposal Bans Drivers From Using Cell Phones
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently proposed a rule to specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a hand-held cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Approximately four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal. Once the rule is finalized, drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver's license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver's CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use. Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000. FMCSA explains that many of the largest carriers already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones. Last September, FMCSA issued a final rule banning text messaging while operating a CMV. Initial comments are due on or before February 22nd. To learn more about the DOT's efforts to stop distracted driving, go to www.distraction.gov.
Hours of Service Changes Proposed
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a proposal to revise the hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for commercial truck drivers as required by a court settlement agreement. The proposal includes seven changes from the current requirements. They are:
  • Limiting drivers to either 10 or 11 hours of driving time following a period of at least 10 consecutive hours off duty;
  • Limiting the standard "driving window" to 14 hours, while allowing that number to be extended to 16 hours twice a week;
  • Limiting actual duty time within the driving window to 13 hours;
  • Permitting drivers to drive only if seven hours or less have passed since their last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes;
  • Restraining the 34-hour restart, subject to certain limits:
    • The restart would have to include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m., and
    • The restart could be started no sooner than seven days after the beginning of the previously designated restart;
  • Revising the definition of "on duty" to allow some time spent in or on the CMV to be logged as off duty;
  • Revising the oilfield operations exception to clarify the language on waiting time and to state that waiting time would not be included in the calculation of the driving window.
The proposal does not change the 10-hour off-duty requirement, the 60/70-hour limits, or the sleeper-berth provisions. FMCSA will accept comments through February 28, 2011, and expects to publish a final HOS rule by the court-imposed deadline of July 26, 2011.
Guidance on Electronic Signatures Published by FMCSA
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued regulatory guidance on January 4, 2011 concerning the use of electronic signatures and documents to comply with FMCSA regulations. The guidance provides the motor carrier industry, federal, state and local motor carrier enforcement officials with uniform information regarding DOT's acceptance of electronic signature on documents required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. All prior agency interpretations and regulatory guidance, including memoranda and letters, may no longer be relied upon to the extent they are inconsistent with this guidance. This regulatory guidance was effective January 4, 2011, when it appeared in the Federal Register. Note: This may open the door for the Asmark Institute to develop a system where electronic signatures could be used on Driver Qualification File documents.
NIOSH Releases Alert on Skid-Steer Loaders
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers found that employers, supervisors and workers may not fully appreciate the potential hazards associated with operating or working near skid-steer loaders. NIOSH recently released a Special Alert to assist employers in preventing injuries and deaths among workers who operate, service, or work near skid-steer loaders.
According to NIOSH, the following steps should be taken to protect employees who operate or work near skid-steer loaders:
Always:
  • Follow safe operating procedures
  • Enter and exit from the loader safely
  • Maintain the machine in safe operating condition
Never:
  • Modify or bypass safety devices
  • Carry riders
  • Use foot or hand controls as steps or handholds
  • Modify or bypass safety devices
  • Exceed the manufacturer's recommended load capacity
Workplace-Noise Rule Gets Shelved
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on the Obama administration saying it is shelving a proposed change to workplace noise standards, following strong opposition to the proposals from manufacturers and some lawmakers. The move came one day after President Barack Obama ordered executive agencies to review all pending regulations and assess whether they were overly burdensome to business. OSHA said it will withdraw a proposal to toughen requirements for what employers had to provide to protect workers' hearing in loud environments, by changing its interpretation of what would be "feasible" for them. Employers are currently allowed to provide personal protective gear, such as ear plugs, rather than installing noise-dampening equipment or limiting the amount of time that workers can spend in noisy areas, if it is more cost-effective for them. OSHA was considering whether to require that employers prove that they would be put out of business by taking more expensive measures. Trade groups and lawmakers indicated the cost of complying with the proposals would stop them from hiring additional workers.
OSHA Releases Agenda for 2011
Fourteen final rules and five proposed rules are projected to move forward based on OSHA's semi-annual regulatory agenda for 2011. OSHA is in the process of developing a rule requiring employers to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. The agency is planning to convene a small business panel in June 2011. Specifically for agribusinesses, Hazard Communication, Cooperative Agreements are at the final rulemaking stage with Walking Working Surfaces, Personal Fall Protection Systems, Combustible Dust and revisions to the Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements are at the proposed rulemaking stage. Click here for the complete agenda.
Will "Mobile Payments" Be the End of Credit Cards?
While companies have been experimenting with "contactless" mobile payments for years, 2011 is expected to be the year the technology really takes off. That's because millions of phones capable of making "contactless" payments are expected to be shipped out in 2011. As a result, this pay-by-phone market is forecast to make up $22 billion in transactions by 2015, up from "practically none" last year. Meanwhile, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon joined forces with Discover and Barclays in November to form Isis and provide a rival to Visa and MasterCard.
Carol Browner Resigns
CropLife America reports that Carol M. Browner, Chief Climate and Energy Adviser (and "Czar") to President Barack Obama, said she plans to leave her position at the White House. The announcement comes as a surprise to many and Browner insists that her reason for leaving is nothing more than just the right time to move on. Browner was deeply involved in last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and in congressional negotiations over climate legislation, and environmentalists that valued her input will undoubtedly feel her departure the most, noting that her exit coincides with Obama's recent outreach to industry.
Looking for a Loan? Call a CPA, Then Call Your Banker
Looking for a small-business loan? Research shows that an audit by a certified public accountant can significantly boost your chance of approval - and decrease the cost of that capital. For an average-size loan of $3.3 million, audited businesses save about $23,000 because of lower interest rates, according to a study from the University of Chicago.
Tax Deadline is April 18th in 2011
Taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18th to file their 2010 tax returns and pay any tax due because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Friday, April 15th. By law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have three extra days to file this year.
Food Safety Bill Signed Into Law
The President signed the most sweeping improvements to food safety law since the 1930s. Under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA will have the authority to:
  • Recall food;
  • Evaluate ways to trace food in a foodborne-illness outbreak;
  • Require food facilities to identify, evaluate and address food hazards and prevent adulteration via a food safety plan;
  • Access the internal records of farms and food facilities;
  • Perform an increased number of inspections;
  • Suspend a food facility's registration; and
  • Require importers to verify that products grown and processed overseas meet safety standards.
Most Noteworthy: Ag Department Uproots Science
If the Obama Administration is trying to lose its anti-business reputation, you wouldn't know it from the latest shakedown at the United States Department of Agriculture. In a move that caused jaws to drop in the farm industry, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack invited activists and biotech critics to shape the agency's regulatory decision on a biotech product. If the precedent stands, it could permanently politicize a system that is supposed to be based on science.
2011 Asmark Institute, Inc. This information is believed to be reliable by the Asmark Institute, however, because of constantly changing government regulations, interpretations and applicability or the possibility of human, mechanical or computer error, the Asmark Institute does not guarantee the information as suitable for any particular purpose.