OSHA Issues Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of COVID-19

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued interim guidance for enforcing OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements (29 CFR Part 1904) as it relates to recording cases of COVID-19.

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if the case:

  • 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, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.

In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, employers other than those in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work. Accordingly, until further notice, OSHA will not enforce its recordkeeping requirements to require these employers to make work-relatedness determinations for COVID-19 cases, except where: (1) There is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related; and (2) The evidence was reasonably available to the employer. Employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations and correctional institutions must continue to make work-relatedness determinations pursuant to 29 CFR Part 1904. 

OSHA’s enforcement policy will provide certainty to the regulated community and help employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces and otherwise mitigating COVID-19’s effects.

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department Of Labor Announces New Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Implementation

The U.S. Department of Labor announced new action regarding how American workers and employers will benefit from the protections and relief offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) posted a temporary rule issuing regulations pursuant to this new law, effective April 1, 2020.

FFCRA helps the United States combat the workplace effects of COVID-19 by reimbursing American private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The law enables employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus. WHD administers the paid leave portions of the FFCRA.

“The FFCRA reflects a swift response by President Trump and Congress to the impact coronavirus is having on workers,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “The bill provides unprecedented paid leave benefits to American workers affected by the virus, while ensuring that businesses are reimbursed dollar-for-dollar. This is one of a number of important actions being taken to protect and sustain workers and their families during this time of need.”

“With so many workers and so many employers struggling with the effects of these unprecedented conditions, this rule provides answers and relief,” said Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton. “We remain committed to providing the information and tools required for employees and employers alike to be fully informed about their rights and protections under this new law.”

WHD posted a recorded webinar on April 3, 2020, to provide interested parties a more in-depth description and help them learn more about the FFCRA. To view the webinar visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.

WHD offers a number of plain-language compliance assistance materials to explain FFCRA’s benefits and requirements. Tools include a Fact Sheet for Employees and a Fact Sheet for Employers, available in both English and Spanish, and an expansive list of Questions and Answers addressing the questions WHD has most frequently received from stakeholders to date. Available guidance also includes two new posters, one for federal workers and one for all other employees, available in both English and Spanish, that will fulfill notice requirements for employers obligated to inform employees about their rights under this new law, Questions and Answers about posting requirements, and a Field Assistance Bulletin describing WHD’s 30-day non-enforcement policy.

WHD provides additional information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19 and its effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.

For more information about the laws enforced by the WHD, call 1-866-4US-WAGE, or visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.For further information about COVID-19, please visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Department of Labor Reminds Employers to Submit Injury and Illness Data to OSHA by March 2

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers to submit their 2019 OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) by March 2, 2020.

Who is required to submit Form 300A?

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, and
  • Establishments with 20 to 249 employees in certain industries. See the list of designated industries.

Injusry and illness data can be submitted electronically at www.osha.gov/300A.

For questions about submission requirements, complete the Help Request Form at www.osha.gov/injuryreporting/ita/help-request-form.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. 

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Publishes Amendments and Technical Corrections to OSHA Standards

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published technical corrections and amendments to 27 OSHA standards and regulations. This administrative rulemaking corrects minor misprints, omissions, outdated references, and tabular and graphic inaccuracies. The revisions apply to several industry sectors, including general industry, construction, shipyard employment and longshoring. Some revisions may reduce employer costs, and none expand employer obligations or impose new costs.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

OSHA Issues Final Rule to Protect the Privacy of Workers

To protect worker privacy, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule that eliminates the requirement for establishments with 250 or more employees to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) to OSHA each year. These establishments are still required to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses).

By preventing routine government collection of information that may be quite sensitive, including descriptions of workers’ injuries and body parts affected, OSHA is avoiding the risk that such information might be publicly disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This rule will better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular worker by removing the requirement for covered employers to submit their information from Forms 300 and 301. The final rule does not alter an employer’s duty to maintain OSHA Forms 300 and 301 on-site, and OSHA will continue to obtain these forms as needed through inspections and enforcement actions. 

In addition, this rule will allow OSHA to focus its resources on initiatives that its past experience has shown to be useful—including continued use of information from severe injury reports that helps target areas of concern, and seeking to fully utilize a large volume of data from Form 300A—rather than on collecting and processing information from Forms 300 and 301 with uncertain value for OSHA enforcement and compliance assistance.

The agency is also amending the recordkeeping regulation to require covered employers to electronically submit their Employer Identification Number with their information from Form 300A. The final rule’s requirement for employers to submit their EIN to OSHA electronically along with their information from OSHA Form 300A will make the data more useful for OSHA and BLS, and could reduce duplicative reporting burdens on employers in the future.

OSHA has determined that this final rule will allow OSHA to improve enforcement targeting and compliance assistance, protect worker privacy and safety, and decrease burden on employers.

Collection of Calendar Year 2018 information from the OSHA Form 300A began on January 2, 2019. The deadline for electronic submissions is March 2, 2019. 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. 

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

OSHA Sets Rule for Affordable Care Act Whistleblower Complaints

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a final rule that establishes procedures and time frames for handling whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) . The rule protects employees from retaliation for receiving Marketplace financial assistance when purchasing health insurance through an Exchange. It also protects employees from retaliation for raising concerns regarding conduct they believe violates the consumer protections and health-insurance reforms found in Title I of the ACA.

The rule also establishes procedures and time frames for hearings before Department of Labor administrative law judges in ACA retaliation cases, review of those decisions by the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board and judicial review of final decisions.

“This rule reinforces OSHA’s commitment to protect workers who raise concerns about potential violations of the consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act or who purchase health insurance through an Exchange,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

In 2013, OSHA published an interim final rule and requested public comments. The final rule responds to the comments and updates the rule to clarify the protections for workers who receive financial assistance when they purchase health insurance through an Exchange.

OSHA’s Affordable Care Act fact sheet provides more information regarding who is covered under the ACA’s whistleblower complaints protection, protected activity, types of retaliation and the process for filing a complaint. The fact sheet is available at Whistleblowers.gov/factsheets_page.html.

How to Deal with an OSHA Inspection

Dealing with an OSHA inspection requires some knowledge of the Washington, D.C.- based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s history and its background. OSHA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor and was created through the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which was signed into law on Dec. 29, 1970, by President Richard M. Nixon. Before OSHA, there were nearly 6,000 workplace fatalities annually, 50,000 deaths from workplace-related illnesses and 5.7 million non-fatal workplace injuries. Injuries alone cost American businesses more than $125 billion.

OSHA is responsible for worker safety and health protection, and it has made a significant difference in the safety and health of workers in all industries. Since its inception, OSHA helped cut the work-related fatality rate in half; worked with employers and employees to reduce injuries and illnesses by 40 percent; and reduced trenching and excavation fatalities by 35 percent. To accomplish these goals, OSHA encourages employers and employees to reduce workplace hazards and implement new safety and health programs, as well as improve existing ones.

Consequently, all U.S.-based businesses covered by the OSH Act are subject to inspection by OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs). Most inspections are conducted without advance notice. Because OSHA cannot inspect all 7 million workplaces it covers each year, it seeks to prioritize its focus on those that present imminent danger situations—hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm.

Keep in mind that OSHA considers an employee on a roof over 6-feet high without fall protection imminently dangerous.

Other high priorities include fatalities and catastrophes, which are any incidents involving the deaths or hospitalizations of three or more employees. These catastrophes must be reported to OSHA within eight hours. In addition, employers must report any employee hospitalizations, amputations or loss of an eye within 24 hours. Complaints, allegations of hazards or violations also receive high priority. Referrals of hazard information from other federal, state or local agencies; individuals; organizations; or the media receive consideration for inspection. Follow-ups—checks for abatement of violations cited during previous inspections—are conducted by the agency in certain circumstances. Planned or programmed investigations will sometimes be aimed at specific high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries or illnesses.

Roofing is considered a high-hazard industry. Roofing job sites are highly visible and working roofers can be seen from several blocks away; therefore, possible infractions or violations are much more visible. As such, it is likely OSHA may come to visit your job site.

When a CSHO comes onsite, the first thing he or she is supposed to do is announce himself or herself to the management representative (the owner, superintendent, foreman or safety consultant). At this point, the CSHO will show his or her credentials—these credentials are similar and carry the same weight of law as those of an FBI agent. CSHOs also have a working relationship with other governmental agencies. An OSHA compliance officer can call in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, local Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if he or she suspects other regulatory infringements.

At this point, the CSHO will conduct the opening conference and explain why this workplace was selected for inspection and describe the scope of the inspection. The employer will choose a representative to accompany the officer during the inspection. An authorized representative (often a union representative, someone designated by employee consensus or even the complainant) of the employees has the right to join the inspection. Regardless, the officer will consult privately with a reasonable number of employees during the inspection. The company representative may not be allowed to participate in these consultations. (Learn more in an OSHA Inspections Fact Sheet.)

Following the opening conference, the compliance officer and representatives will walk through the portions of the job site covered by the inspection, looking for hazards that could lead to employee injury or illness. The compliance officer also will review workplace injury and illness records and posting of the official OSHA poster.

During the walkthrough, the compliance officer may point out some violations that can be corrected immediately. Although the law requires these hazards be cited, prompt correction is a sign of good faith on the part of the employer. Compliance officers try to minimize work interruptions during the inspection and will keep confidential any trade secrets they observe. The only time a CSHO can stop a job is if an employee is in immediate danger.

As a professional safety consultant, I have been involved in numerous OSHA inspections. During these inspections, I collect information. I listen to what the CSHO has to say and take copious notes. I know the rules OSHA must follow and I note every possible mistake or shortcut the officer may make during the information-gathering process. While doing this, I am cordial with the officer; I speak politely and respectfully and as little as possible. The information I gather can sometimes be used at the informal hearing to get some of the citations lowered or, if OSHA is mistaken or has not followed its own protocols, removed completely.

In the meantime, I make sure my client immediately fixes any issues that OSHA has cited us on. Just like OSHA, I want all employees to be able to work safely and without the fear of injury and illness.

YouthBuild Provides Life and Job Skills

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the availability of approximately $73 million in YouthBuild grant funds to develop programs that will help out-of-school youth complete high school or General Educational Development programs, as well as learn critical occupational skills in construction, health care, information technology and other in-demand fields.

“Too many of our young men and women face challenges that prevent them from reaching their full potential,” says U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The YouthBuild program helps them overcome these challenges by providing participants with the resources they need to develop the life and job skills that lead to a place in the middle class.”

The department will award approximately 75 grants with a maximum funding of up to $1.1 million each. The grants will be awarded to organizations that oversee education and employment services for disadvantaged youths in their communities. The department anticipates serving approximately 4,950 young people in this grant cycle.

YouthBuild serves as an alternative education program that provides classroom instruction, case managers and occupational skills training for 16- to 24-year-olds at risk of falling out of the labor force. Participants are often those who have been in the juvenile justice system, are aging out of foster care, dropped out of high school or are at risk of failing to reach key educational milestones.

Successful grantees have historically provided construction skills training to participating students and must continue to offer that training. However, new guidelines issued in February 2012 expanded the list of eligible industries that grantees are allowed to offer skills training opportunities for to include training in high-demand occupations, such as health care and information technology. Students in YouthBuild also receive leadership development training and access to community service activities to ensure that they maintain a connection to their communities through volunteerism.

The solicitation for grant applications, which includes information about how to apply for a grant, is available online.

Learn more about YouthBuild and other youth employment and training programs.