OSHA Updates COVID-19 Guidance

Given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, businesses are likely to be faced with COVID-19 complaints as customers return.

On May 19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an updated interim enforcement response plan for COVID-19 and an interim guidance for recording cases of COVID-19.

Under the Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for COVID-19, on-site inspections will be prioritized for fatalities and imminent danger exposures with particular attention on high-risk workplaces such as healthcare providers and workplaces with a high number of complaints and areas with high community transmission or a resurgence in community transmission of COVID-19.

If on-site inspections cannot be conducted for these cases due to insufficient resources, the inspection will be initiated remotely with a follow-up on-site inspection when resources are available.

In areas where the COVID-19 spread has significantly decreased or for medium risk workplaces (jobs with frequent and/or close contact with public or coworkers) and low risk workplaces (minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers) OSHA will follow normal (pre-COVID-19) inspection procedures.

In these cases, complaints might not result in an on-site inspection but will be conducted using a non-formal phone/fax investigation or rapid response investigations. OSHA Compliance Officers will be required to take appropriate precautions and use personal protective equipment (PPE) when performing COVID-19 inspections.

The Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of COVID-19 became effective on May 26, 2020. This guidance is time-limited to the current COVID-19 public health crisis.

COVID-19 is a recordable illness that employers are responsible for recording if the case is (1) a confirmed case of COVID-19, (2) the case is work related, and (3) meets the criteria in 29 CFR § 1904.7 (i.e., results in death, days away from work, restricted work or job transfer, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness).

In recognition of the transmission of this disease in the community and the resulting difficulty in determining whether a COVID-19 illness is work-related, this guidance describes criteria that will be evaluated to determine if an employer has made a good faith effort to comply with the reporting requirements.

OSHA will consider the reasonableness of the investigation into whether the COVID-19 case was work related, the available evidence, and the evaluation of the available evidence.

With this revised guidance, businesses should expect an increased focus and response on COVID-19 complaints.

 COVID-19 complaints by employees will need to be investigated regardless of whether it is ultimately determined that it was work-related.

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