We find ourselves in unprecedented times and where safety is imperative for everyone within their scope of work and the changes in the work environment. OSHA has released an interim enforcement plan to provide instructions and guidance for their personnel and compliance officers related to increased workplace hazards related to COVID-19. OSHA field offices have the discretion to respond to any complaints, referrals, or illness reporting. Employers must educate themselves and stay up to date on the changing requirements and regulations.
OSHA has provided guidance in preparing workplaces, and how they will prioritize enforcement activities based upon risk level. OSHA has categorized organizations into three levels of risk; Very High to High, Medium, and Low.
- Very High to High Risk: Includes but not limited to hospitals, nursing homes, emergency medical centers, biomedical laboratories, and medical transport.
- Medium Risk: Includes organizations with frequent to close contact with other people (within 6 feet). This includes schools, retail, and other high population density work environments.
- Low Risk: Includes organization with little or no contact with the general public or close contact with co-workers.
These categories are prioritizing the OSHA staff resources around the country and the severity of the complaint will determine the need for an informal (phone/fax) investigation or an on-site inspection. As a result, these onsite investigations will be altered to follow guidance from the CDC and local/state health authorities. When your organization receives communication regarding an investigation, make sure the appropriate parties are notified. This would include Human Resources, Safety officers and ownership. They will insure that the process will be managed and handled timely and professionally. If you have a Third party Safety Representative, make sure they are contacted as to be present for the meeting.
There are no specific standards on COVID-19. However, there are standards that surround the risk management of such a hazard. These are a few of the standards that OSHA said apply:
- Record and Reporting of injuries and illness (29 CFR 1904)**
- General Requirements – Personal Protective Equipment (29 CFR 1910.132)
- Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1910.133)
- Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134)
- Sanitation (29 CFR 1910.141)
- Specification of Accident Prevention signs and tags (29 CFR 1910.145)
- Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records (29 CFR 1910.1020)
- General Duty Clause of the OSH Act - Section 5(a)(1)
**For purposes of OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping, cases of COVID-19 are not considered a common cold or flu. Therefore, identifying any workers with illnesses or symptoms associated with exposure to COVID-19 should be recorded if all the following requirements are present:
- The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the CDC
- The case is work-related, as defined by (29 CFR 1904.5)
- The case involves one or more of the recording criteria set forth in (29 CFR 1904.7, medical treatment and accumulated days away from work)
If your organization has any questions or would like to discuss audit preparation please contact me.
Office- 330-929-8686 or email- tracy [at] wichert [dot] com