November at-a-glance … regulations

PFAs under increasing scrutiny

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doubling down on per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), expanding regulations through a “whole-agency approach” that leverages a number of existing programs, including the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In an effort to address exposure to PFAs pollution, the EPA’s PFAs Road Map details a three-prong approach:

  • Increase investments in research.
  • Leverage authorities to take action now to restrict PFAS chemicals from being released into the environment.
  • Accelerate the cleanup of PFAS contamination. 

Just days after publishing the Road Map, EPA moved to initiate a rulemaking process under another program, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), to identify four PFAs as hazardous waste. The four PFAS chemicals EPA will evaluate are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorobutane sulfonic acid (PFBS), and GenX. 

“This is significant because some of these compounds were developed to help companies phase out of earlier PFA compounds,” said Tammy Helminski, NAFEM legal counsel, Barnes & Thornburg. “We expect a lot more regulatory activity around PFAs. It’s even possible that the EPA will require organizations to report on the PFAs-containing products they have imported for the past 10 years.”

Court stays OSHA requirement that companies with 100+ employees mandate vaccinations by Jan. 4, 2022

The Nov. 5 U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement a COVID-19 vaccine mandate or testing alternative was stayed by the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Nov. 8. According to the court, there is “cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”

The ETS states that employers must require all of their employees be fully vaccinated no later than Jan. 4, 2022, or implement a policy allowing for weekly COVID-19 testing. The ETS also requires that all unvaccinated workers wear a face mask on the job and submit to weekly testing. The mandate doesn’t apply to employees who work remotely or exclusively outdoors. OSHA is accepting comments on the ETS via the Federal Register until Jan. 4, 2022.

The MRA association of nonprofit employers will hold a free webinar to help explain OSHA’s vaccine mandate Tuesday, Nov. 23, 10 – 11 a.m. CT. Registration is required.

Infrastructure bill bodes well for manufacturers

Following congressional passage of the infrastructure bill, formally called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) issued a statement praising the bipartisan work. “The Act makes America stronger, with a promise to renew and revitalize our nation’s physical infrastructure, improving productivity and quality of life for everybody ‒ without raising taxes or jeopardizing economic growth and manufacturing jobs. This type of investment will enable us to continue to grow our economy and get started on building the world-class infrastructure that will enable us to lead through this century and into the next.”

Prior to the Act’s passage, a study by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) estimated that it could create as many as 500,000 new manufacturing jobs by 2024. Simultaneously, Time expects the demand for metals, especially steel, to increase as it is needed for road, bridge and rail projects. NAFEM will continue closely watching the impact of the Act on the commercial foodservice equipment and supplies industry.