Thursday, December 3, 2020

OSHA Citations Reinforce Need to Stay Vigilant With Worker Safety

Author: Tammy Somogye


With COVID-19 cases surging, employers should take the time to review the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s recent guidance document, which was generated based on a review of “data from citations issued, many of which were the result of complaints, referrals and fatalities in industries such as hospitals and healthcare, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and meat/poultry processing plants.” OSHA News Release (11/7/2020).

The guidance document identifies the standards that are most frequently cited in coronavirus-related OSHA inspections and compiles relevant resources and related information, making it easier for employers to understand their obligations. In addition, OSHA published what it calls a “one-pager,” which identifies the top nine things employers should be doing to keep workers safe. These include:


  • Medical evaluations before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator;
  • Appropriate fit tests for workers using tight fitting respirators;
  • Assessing the workplace to determine if COVID-19 hazards are present, or likely to be present, that will require the use of a respirator and/or other personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Establishing, implementing and updating a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures;
  • Providing 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);
  • Training workers to safely use respirators and/or other PPE in the workplace, and retraining workers about changes in the workplace that might make previous training obsolete;
  • Storing respirators and other PPE properly in a way to protect them from damage, contamination and, where applicable, deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve;
  • Reporting to OSHA (within eight hours of finding out about) any fatality occurring within 30 days of a work-related incident; and
  • Keeping required records of work-related fatalities, injuries and illness.
Employers (and employees) should not let growing weariness with COVID-19 lead to lax practices. Pandemic grace will last only so long. Indeed, OSHA reminds employers in its guidance, “for OSHA to exercise enforcement discretion, employers must demonstrate and document good-faith efforts to comply with OSHA standards…. OSHA’s temporary enforcement memoranda are time-limited to the current COVID-19 crisis…. Enforcement discretion applies only after an employer has considered and taken all possible steps to comply with measures in a particular control strategy.” (Guidance at p 5, last visited on 11/11/20.) Stay vigilant and renew your commitment to worker safety.

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