Regulations round-up for workers

Regulations are in place to protect the safety and health of workers. However, the vast amount of regulations across industries and states often makes it difficult to stay informed and updated.

In addition, standards can often be difficult to interpret. As policies change or as new policies are implemented, it is essential that workers receive this information. This article outlines recent changes to current regulations or newly implemented policies that affect workplace safety and health.

Nursing Home Reform and Safe Staffing

Nursing home workers are celebrating a major victory in the struggle to make their jobs safer. Safe staffing in health care facilities is a serious issue that significantly affects the safety and health of direct care workers, including those that work in nursing homes. A report published by the AFL-CIO states that “high patient-to-nurse ratios are strongly associated with emotional exhaustion, job dissatisfaction and fatigue.”¹ In addition, research indicates that long shifts and overtime negatively impact the cardiovascular health of care workers¹.

On April 22, 2024, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule that establishes minimum staffing standards for nursing homes². This final rule is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s action plan for nursing home reform². In addition to requiring adequate staffing 24 hours per day, the standard requires nursing homes to develop a staffing plan to maximize recruitment and retention². This new standard is the first national minimum staffing requirement for nursing homes in the U.S.² This standard marks a significant milestone in advancing the safety and health of health care workers. A report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates that nursing home workers "are often women of color, typically earn low wages, rarely receive health and retirement benefits, and experience high injury rates."² Therefore, this final rulemaking is also a step toward addressing workplace disparities among minority and/or vulnerable populations.

Heat Safety Final Rule Update

Heat kills. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is taking steps to protect workers from this currently unregulated hazard. Heat stress is a common workplace hazard which can affect workers of all ages and occupations. Although we are still waiting on a final rule that establishes heat exposure protections in the workplace, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has moved closer to a proposed rule protecting both indoor and outdoor workers from heat³. On April 24, 2024 at a meeting with the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, OSHA received a unanimous recommendation to move forward promptly on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for heat safety³. As part of the rulemaking process, OSHA will solicit and gather input from a wide range of groups, including the public³. In the meantime, OSHA will continue to offer guidance and educational resources to employers and workers on heat safety in the workplace, as well as conduct heat-related inspections under the National Emphasis Program (NEP).³

Methylene Chloride Ban

Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane or DCM, is a volatile chemical used in various industries and applications. Applications of methylene chloride include, but are not limited to:

  • paint strippers
  • aerosols
  • adhesives and glues
  • cleaning fluids and degreasers
  • chemical processing
  • pharmaceuticals

According to OSHA, the most common routes of occupational exposure to methylene chloride are inhalation and skin exposure. Short-term exposure to methylene chloride can result in harm to the central nervous system⁴. Chronic exposure to methylene chloride has been linked to cancer, cognitive impairment, and liver toxicity⁴.

On April 30, 2024, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule that bans most uses of methylene chloride. This final rule is part of the Toxic Substances and Control Act (TSCA) reform, which had previously not been updated since 1976⁶. This final rule prohibits all consumer and most commercial and industrial uses of methylene chloride under TSCA, including the use of:

  • degreasers
  • spot removes
  • paint or coating removers

This final rulemaking is a positive step towards protecting workers against chemical hazards and reducing occupational disease.

Ongoing Use of Asbestos Ban

Asbestos has been known to cause deadly lung diseases since the 1920s and 1930s. Nearly 100 years later, on March 18, 2024, the EPA announced a final rule that bans the ongoing uses of chrysotile asbestos. As with the methylene chloride ban, this asbestos ban is part of the TSCA reform. As part of this final rule, EPA is requiring employers to meet specific deadlines to transition away from the use of asbestos. EPA also is requiring strict workplace safety measures to protect workers from asbestos exposure during any phaseout periods longer than two years.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that occurs in rock and soil, and has been used in a wide range of manufactured goods. These include:

  • building materials
  • friction products
  • heat-resistant fabrics
  • packaging
  • gaskets
  • coatings

Workers can be exposed to asbestos fibers during activities that disturb asbestos-containing materials including during home or building construction, renovation or demolition. Major health effects associated with asbestos exposure include cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos exposure is linked to 40,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

The policy actions taken by EPA to ban methylene chloride and asbestos mark significant milestones for chemical safety in the workplace, after more than three decades of inadequate protections.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS! Your employer is required to provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with relevant standards, rules and regulations. Workers have the right to report unsafe and hazardous conditions in the workplace. Remember to document unsafe or hazardous conditions that you see or report.


Photo courtesy of United Steelworkers Flickr.


  1. Department for Professional Employees. (2019, April 15). Safe staffing: Critical for patients and nurses. Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO.
  2. (2024, April 22). Biden-Harris Administration Takes Historic Action to Increase Access to Quality Care, and Support to Families and Care Workers. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services;
  3. “Department of Labor Takes Critical Step in Heat Safety Rulemaking, Continues Heightened Enforcement Efforts, Focuses on Dangers to Agricultural Workers | Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”, 2024, Accessed 16 May 2024.
  4. “Fact Sheet: Methylene Chloride or Dichloromethane (DCM).” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 25 Sept. 2015, Accessed 16 May 2024.
  5. “Methylene Chloride - Overview | Occupational Safety and Health Administration.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 2016, Accessed 16 May 2024.
  6. Stohler, Stephanie. “EPA Finalizes Ban on Most Uses of Methylene Chloride.” Toxic-Free Future, 30 Apr. 2024, Accessed 16 May 2024.
  7. EPA Press Office. “Biden-Harris Administration Finalizes Ban on Ongoing Uses of Asbestos to Protect People from Cancer.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 18 Mar. 2024, Accessed 16 May 2024.
  8. “Learn about Asbestos.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 5 Mar. 2013, Accessed 16 May 2024.
  9. “Protecting Workers from Asbestos.” United States Environmental Protection Agency, 12 Mar. 2013, Accessed 16 May 2024.