OSHA Adopts Revised COVID-19 Enforcement Policies

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted revised policies for enforcing its COVID-19 requirements. The new polices became effective May 26, 2020.

OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all workplaces. The new enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread.

“As more states are taking steps to reopen their economies and workers are returning to their workplaces, OSHA is receiving complaints from affected workers in non-essential businesses. This Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan takes account of such changes,” a portion of OSHA’s statement reads.

OSHA is also revising its previous enforcement policy for recording COVID-19 cases. Under its recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if it:

• Is confirmed as a COVID-19 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.

Under the new policy, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee COVID-19 illnesses for all employers.  OSHA’s guidance emphasizes employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to determine whether a particular COVID-19 case is work-related.

Recording a COVID-19 illness does not mean the employer violated any OSHA standard. According to current regulations, employers with ten or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report COVID-19 work-related illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.

“Employers must report work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. Employers must report fatalities that occur within 30 days of a work-related incident, and must report in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye that occur within 24 hours of a work-related incident,” a portion of OSHA’s standard reads.

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