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DOL Announces OSHA Interim Enforcement

Thursday, April 16, 2020

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On Monday (April 13), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced an interim enforcement response plan for the coronavirus pandemic.

The response plan outlines instructions and guidance for OSHA offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling coronavirus-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports.

“OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers during this challenging time in our nation’s history,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt said. “Today’s guidance outlines commonsense procedures for investigating complaints related to the coronavirus, while also ensuring the safety of workers, employers and inspectors.”

The Response Plan

According to the DOL’s enforcement memorandum, guidelines provided in the interim response plan will be used to cover all investigations and inspections specifically related to the workplace hazard of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing COVID-19.

Ed Brown, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

On Monday (April 13), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced an interim enforcement response plan for the coronavirus pandemic.

Also included are sample attachments of employer letters for COVID-19 activities, hazard alert letters, alleged violation description for citations under the general duty clause and additional references.

The response plan walks through handling the following:

  • Workplace Risk Levels;
  • Complaints, Referrals and Rapid Response Investigations;
  • Inspection Scope, Scheduling and Procedures; and
  • Coding and Point of Contact.

OSHA notes that fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to the coronavirus will be prioritized for onsite inspections, and workers requesting inspections or reporting complaints or illnesses will be protected under one or more whistleblower statutes and informed of their protections from retaliation.

The memorandum went into effect immediately and will be used throughout the course of the pandemic, or until further notice. The agency plans to practice these responsibilities in differing circumstances throughout the nation, however, it is intended to be a time-limited adjustment.

Other Guidance

Prior to the release of the interim enforcement response plan, OSHA published “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” in March, with the aim to help companies respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and educates workers and employers about:

  • How a COVID-19 outbreak could impact the workplace;
  • Steps employers can take to reduce exposure risk;
  • Jobs classified at Lower Risk Exposure;
  • Jobs classified at Medium Risk Exposure;
  • Jobs Classified at High or Very High Risk Exposure;
  • Workers Living Abroad or Traveling; and
  • OSHA Assistance, Services and Programs.

After President Donald J. Trump’s released a memorandum on Making General Use Respirators Available, the Administration also created an interim enforcement guidance to help combat the shortage of N95 filtering face piece respirators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If respiratory protection must be used, employers are to consider use of alternative classes of respirators that provide equal or greater protection compared to an N95 FFR, such as National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved, non-disposable, elastomeric respirators or powered, air-purifying respirators.

If alternatives are not available, or when their use creates an additional safety or health hazard, employers are to consider the extended use or reuse of N95 FFRs, or use N95 FFRs that were approved but have passed the manufacturer’s recommended shelf life.

This guidance will remain in effect until further notice, however, it is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis, OSHA noted.

Most recently, the DOL released a bulletin reminding employers that they cannot retaliate against workers reporting unsafe conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, while OSHA added a reminder to  employers that acts of retaliation such as termination, demotion, denial of overtime or promotion, or reduction in pay or hours are illegal.

View all of PaintSquare Daily News' coverage on COVID-19, here.


Tagged categories: COVID-19; Department of Labor; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; Labor; NA; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Regulations; Workers

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