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OSHA Releases FY 2020 Safety Review

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released its review of safety throughout fiscal year 2020, in which it says it used both traditional practices and unique approaches regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout FY 2020 (Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020), the agency conducted 21,674 inspections in response to worker complaints, injuries and fatalities, and referrals impacted by COVID-19. OSHA received 20,541 complaints—9,189 of which were related to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, OSHA says that its On-Site Consultation Program identified 80,910 workplace hazards, removing 667,492 workers from potential harm. The agency also received and investigated 11,865 whistleblower complaints (about 3,437 of which were related to COVID-19).

OSHA noted that monetary settlements or merit awards totaled $30.1 million, nearly doubling $16 million from the previous year.

Ed Brown, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released its review of safety throughout fiscal year 2020, in which it says it used both traditional practices and unique approaches regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also thanks to COVID-19, OSHA adapted much of its health and safety training to digital and virtual formats, training about 1.6 million workers—exceeding last year’s number of 1.3 million.

Virtual technologies were used to continue the agency’s major outreach initiatives, such as the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction and the Safe + Sound Campaign.

OSHA also expanded its outreach and education efforts by issuing “COVID Tip-of-the-Day” and “Did You Know” direct messages. And OSHA’s coronavirus website itself, which includes guidance documents, FAQs and videos, has garnered more than 11 million page views since January 2020. There were more than 55 million overall visits by the public to OSHA.gov.

“OSHA remains committed to strong enforcement, compliance assistance and training programs to accomplish our mission of safety and health for every worker,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt.

“Despite the pandemic-related challenges that impacted the nation, OSHA staff worked tirelessly to help ensure every worker was safe on the job. I am proud of the work the agency accomplished for America’s workers during this unprecedented year.”

FAQs

One way that OSHA has worked to educate workers online with regard to COVID-19 was the release of multiple frequently-asked-questions sheets to help employers understand which standards are more likely to be cited during COVID-19-related inspections.

The most recent FAQ listed nine examples of requirements that employers have most frequently failed to follow, according to OSHA. Those are:

  • Providing a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator;
  • Performing an appropriate fit test for workers using tight fitting respirators;
  • Assessing the workplace to determine if COVID-19 hazards are present, or likely to be present, which will require the use of a respirator and/or other PPE;
  • Establishing, implementing and updating a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures;
  • Providing an appropriate respirator and/or other PPE to each employee when necessary to protect the health of the employees (ensuring the respirator and/or PPE used is the correct type and size);
  • Training workers to safely use respirators and/or other PPE in the workplace, and retraining workers about changes in the workplace that might make previous training obsolete;
  • Storing respirators and other PPE properly in a way to protect them from damage, contamination and, where applicable, deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve;
  • For any fatality that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident, reporting the fatality to OSHA within eight hours of finding out about it; and
  • Keeping required records of work-related fatalities, injuries and illness.

Related to the last two frequent violations mentioned in the November release, in October, OSHA updated its Frequently Asked Questions forum regarding the need to report employees’ in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities resulting from work-related cases of COVID-19.

Among the updates, the FAQs provide guidance on how to calculate reporting deadlines for in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities, as well as clarifying the meaning of the term “incident” as it relates to work-related coronavirus in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities.

At the time, the two updated Q&As of note were:

  • Question: An employee has been hospitalized with a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19. Do I need to report this in-patient hospitalization to OSHA?
  • Answer: Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), employers are only required to report in-patient hospitalizations to OSHA if the hospitalization "occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident." For cases of COVID-19, the term "incident" means an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace. Therefore, in order to be reportable, an in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. The employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been in-patient hospitalized and that the reason for the hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19. Thus, if an employer learns that an employee was in-patient hospitalized within 24 hours of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the in-patient hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within 24 hours of that determination. OSHA adds to this that 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6) only applies to reporting, and is separate from the injury and illness records requirements.
  • Question: An employee has died of a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19. Do I need to report this fatality to OSHA?
  • Answer: Under 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6), an employer must "report a fatality to OSHA if the fatality occurs within 30 days of the work-related incident." Therefore, in order to be reportable, a fatality due to COVID-19 must occur within 30 days of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work. The employer must report the fatality within eight hours of knowing both that the employee has died, and that the cause of death was a work-related case of COVID-19.

A few weeks later, OSHA published an FAQ on how N95 respirators effectively protect wearers from coronavirus exposure.

The FAQ arrived as the Administration became aware of incorrect claims stating that N95 respirators filter do not capture particles as small as the virus causing COVID-19.

   

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

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