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Most Frequently Cited OSHA Standards Related to COVID-19 Inspections

on Thursday, 12 November 2020 in Covid-19 Information Hub

Just this weekend, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued guidance to help employers understand which standards the agency most frequently cites during coronavirus-related inspections in industries such as hospitals and healthcare, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and meat/poultry processing plants.

The following are requirements that employers have most frequently failed to follow:

  • Not conducting a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator.
  • Failure to perform an appropriate fit test for workers using tight fitting respirators.
  • Not 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 personal protective equipment (“PPE”.
  • If employees are using respirators, failure to establish, implement, and update a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures.
  • Failure to provide 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).
  • Not training workers to safely use respirators and other PPE in the workplace, and not retraining workers about changes in the workplace that might make previous training obsolete.
  • Storing respirators and other PPE in such a way that they may be damaged, contaminated, and/or deformed.
  • Failing to reporting fatalities related to work-related incidents to OSHA within eight hours of finding out about it.
  • Not keeping required records of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illness.

This one-page list is accompanied by hyperlinked webpages that allow employers to easily navigate OSHA guidance for each of the above standards. Employers can find the list here. For employers wanting a more comprehensive list of frequently cited standards, OSHA published a summary of twenty-five frequently cited standards and OSHA’s accompanying guidance to help employers comply with each standard. Employers can find that document here.

In addition to the guidance, OSHA advertises its On-Site Consultation Program, which is a no-cost service that provides workplace safety advice and consulting to small- and medium-sized business.  The purpose of the program as it relates to COVID-19 is to help employers identify workplace hazards, comply with OSHA standards, and establish or improve employers’ safety and health programs.

The program is separate from OSHA’s enforcement team. As a result, consultants will not issue citations if they initially find that employer is violating OSHA standards. Employers should beware, however, that failure to implement a consultant’s suggestions or correct identified OSHA violations may cause the consultants to refer the employer to an OSHA enforcement office for appropriate action.  Employers interested in participating in the program should consult with legal counsel to weigh the pros and cons of accepting these services.

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