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OSHA Releases Revised Enforcement Guidelines

Thursday, May 21, 2020

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently adopted “revised policies” for enforcing its requirements with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic as different parts of the country begin to reopen.

“Throughout the course of the pandemic, understanding about the transmission and prevention of infection has improved,” OSHA said. “The government and the private sector have taken rapid and evolving measures to slow the virus's spread, protect employees, and adapt to new ways of doing business.”

OSHA has issued two revised enforcement policies including increasing in-person inspections and revising its policy for recording cases of the coronavirus.

Ed Brown, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently adopted “revised policies” for enforcing its requirements with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic as different parts of the country begin to reopen.

In terms of the inspections, the new enforcement guidance “reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread.”

  • In areas where the community spread of COVID-19 has decreased, OSHA will return to the inspection planning policy that it had relied on prior to the health crisis. However, it will continue to prioritize COVID-19 cases, utilize whatever type of communication is necessary and ensure everyone takes appropriate precautions.
  • In areas experiencing sustained community transmission or a resurgence, OSHA will continue prioritizing COVID-19 fatalities and imminent danger exposures for inspection, will conduct on-site inspections where resources are sufficient and OSHA will develop a program to conduct monitoring inspections.

The second revised guideline emphasizes that employers must make all reasonable efforts to ascertain where a case of coronavirus is work-related when dealing with recordkeeping.

Employers must record cases of the coronavirus if it:

  • Is confirmed as a coronavirus illness;
  • Is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  • Involves one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.

OSHA reiterates, though, that “recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Following existing regulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee's in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.”

Past Enforcement

OSHA released its interim enforcement response plan in April, which outlined instructions and guidance for OSHA offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling coronavirus-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports.

Also included in that announcement were 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 at the time covered the handling the following:

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

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.

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


Tagged categories: COVID-19; Enforcement; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Inspection; NA; North America; OSHA; OSHA; Regulations; Safety

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