Posted April 30, 2020
As more workplace incidents occur as a result of COVID-19, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a temporary enforcement plan to aid those assisting in coronavirus-related workplace safety incidents, to give officials “flexibility and discretion” to protect workers.
Such guidelines that OSHA has issued to field offices and compliance safety and health officers include:
- Be strategic in the use of in-person inspections and investigations of workplace safety complaints or reports of severe illness
- Compliance safety and health officers must also be trained to identify workers who may have COVID-19, in addition to having personal protective equipment and decontamination products
In addition, these guidelines provide information for regional offices and inspectors on assessing the level of COVID-19 contamination risk in a specific workplace to determine the number of precautions that need to be taken in addition to the types of inspections which should be completed.
Because of nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment, OSHA compliance officers are able to give more leeway to employers on how much they supply in addition to if it was a “good-faith effort to provide and ensure workers use the most appropriate respiratory protection available.”
Good faith effort means that the “employer thoroughly explored all options to comply with the applicable standard(s) (e.g., the use of virtual training or remote communication strategies).” In addition, this may include allowing “interim alternative protections implemented or provided to protect employees, such as engineering or administrative controls, and whether the employer took steps to reschedule the required annual activity as soon as possible.”
OSHA has also established a reporting procedure that some businesses will need to follow. Businesses will need to meet a three-prong test when recording COVID-19 cases. They include:
- A worker has a confirmed COVID-19 infection as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
- The case is “work-related” as defined by the Department of Labor (DOL) regulations,
- And the case involves at least one recording criteria that the DOL has previously established through regulation.
However, businesses will not have to follow this record-keeping requirement if the business is not a hospital, employer of first responders, or a correctional facility, unless “objective evidence” exists that a COVID-19 case may be work-related, and the employer had that evidence “reasonably available”.
While this is not a catch-all for workers’ safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a start and one employers must comply with.
If you have questions as an employee or employer regarding the temporary OSHA standards, contact us today. We have attorneys across the country who can guide you through the process.
Posted in COVID-19.