White House Regulatory Freeze Applies to All Recent, Pending Rules

Published January 25, 2017

A memorandum issued on Jan. 20 by the White House Office of the Press Secretary prohibits executive departments and federal agencies from sending regulations to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) until a department or agency head appointed or designated by President Trump reviews and approves the regulations. Regulations sent to OFR not yet published in the Federal Register must be withdrawn for review and approval. The memorandum also directs executive department and agency heads to “temporarily postpone” for 60 days effective dates of published regulations that have not yet taken effect. This regulatory freeze potentially affects several regulations recently issued by OSHA and MSHA.

“On Friday, the White House issued a regulatory freeze impacting all pending regulations – including final rules that have yet to be fully implemented,” said Mark Ames, AIHA’s new Director of Government Relations. “This seems straightforward, but there’s actually a lot of vague language in the memo that can be interpreted in multiple ways, making the specific impacts on worker health and safety hard to predict. While agencies are rushing to provide guidance on which rules are subject to the freeze, this period of regulatory disruption is likely to continue for some time, even after President Trump’s nominees have been installed, since the president has ambitious plans for cutting federal regulations, creating additional vast uncertainties.”

Regulations that face potentially uncertain futures include OSHA’s final rule that amends the agency’s standards for occupational exposure to beryllium and beryllium compounds; the OSHA final rule that updates its general industry walking-working surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards; and MSHA’s final rule that amends standards for the examination of working places in metal and nonmetal mines. OSHA’s final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica may also be affected; the rule became effective on June 23, 2016, but start-up dates for specific provisions vary, with some dates still to come in 2017 and 2018.