U.S. Department 0f Labor Issues Stronger Workplace Guidance on Coronavirus

The U.S. Department of Labor announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus protection program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction. Last week, President Biden directed OSHA to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.

Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides updated guidance and recommendations, and outlines existing safety and health standards. OSHA is providing the recommendations to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

“More than 400,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions of people are out of work as a result of this crisis. Employers and workers can help our nation fight and overcome this deadly pandemic by committing themselves to making their workplaces as safe as possible,” said Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor M. Patricia Smith. “The recommendations in OSHA’s updated guidance will help us defeat the virus, strengthen our economy and bring an end to the staggering human and economic toll that the coronavirus has taken on our nation.”

Implementing a coronavirus protection program is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus. The guidance announced today recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:

  • Conduct a hazard assessment.
  • Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
  • Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
  • Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
  • Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.

“OSHA is updating its guidance to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus and improve worker protections so businesses can operate safely and employees can stay safe and working,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick.

The guidance details key measures for limiting coronavirus’s spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning.

OSHA will update today’s guidance as developments in science, best practices and standards warrant.

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.

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 https://www.osha.gov

U.S. Department of Labor Seeks Members to Serve on Committee For Improving Construction Workers’ Safety and Health

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is accepting nominations for individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. The 15-member group advises the Secretary of Labor and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on developing standards and policies affecting the construction industry.

OSHA is seeking nominations for 14 members with experience and expertise in construction-related safety and health issues to fill five employee, five employer, two state safety and health agency, and two public representative vacancies. The members generally serve two-year staggered terms, except the representative designated by the Department of Health and Human Services and appointed by the Secretary of Labor, who serves indefinitely.

Nominations may be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal, by mail, or facsimile. Read the Federal Register notice for submission details. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 8, 2021.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

OSHA Inspection Program To Target Workplaces With Highest Injury and Illness Rates

The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is updating its inspection program that directs agency enforcement resources to establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses.

The Site-Specific Targeting (SST) Directive is OSHA’s primary targeting program for non-construction establishments with 20 or more employees. The agency selects establishments based on injury and illness data employers submitted on Form 300A for calendar years 2017-2019.

The new directive replaces Site-Specific Targeting 2016, and includes significant changes including the creation of a new targeting category for establishments indicating consistent injury and illness rate increases over the three-year data collection period. It also allows records only inspections to occur when a compliance safety and health officer determines incorrect data led to an establishment’s inclusion in the program. This change ensures OSHA will conduct a full inspection only when the employer has an actual elevated injury and illness experience.

In addition to the SST program, OSHA implements both national and local emphasis programs to target high-risk hazards and industries. Learn more about these emphasis programs.

OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small- and medium-sized businesses to identify workplace hazards, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. 

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 Encourages Employers to Mark National Safe + Sound Week

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages America’s workplaces to commit to workplace safety and health by participating in Safe + Sound Week, August 10-16, 2020.

Safe + Sound Week is a nationwide event that recognizes the successes of workplace safety and health programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe.

In 2019, more than 3,300 businesses helped raise awareness about workers’ safety and health.  Successful safety and health programs can identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness.

Participating in Safe + Sound Week is simple. Organizations of any size or in any industry looking for an opportunity to show their commitment to safety can participate. Start by visiting www.osha.gov/safeandsoundweek for more information, resources, and tools to help plan and promote safety events.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls Rescheduled for September 14-18

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that the 7th annual National Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction has been rescheduled for September 14-18, 2020. While OSHA postponed the event earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency continues to encourage employers to promote fall safety virtually or while employing social distancing practices among small groups.

OSHA is partnering with other safety organizations in 2020 to encourage employers to provide safety demonstrations on fall protection equipment, conduct talks regarding fall-related hazards, safety policies, goals and expectations, and promote the event by using the #StandDown4Safety on social media.

“This national initiative brings much needed attention to falls, which continue to be the leading cause of fatalities in construction,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Since OSHA began doing fall prevention stand-down events six years ago, nearly 10 million workers have been reached by our message that falls are preventable. These efforts have been successful in raising awareness of the recognition, evaluation, and control of fall hazards.”

Extensive resources are available on OSHA’s Fall Prevention Stand-Down webpage at http://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown and are presented in various languages, including English, Spanish, Russian, and Portuguese. Resources include a brief video entitled “5 Ways to Prevent Workplace Falls,” which encourages employers to educate and train workers on fall protection equipment; a series of fall prevention publications, with an emphasis on construction, and fall prevention videos; OSHA’s Fall Prevention Training Guide, which provides a lesson plan for employers, including several Toolbox Talks; and guidance on ladder and scaffolding safety.

Employers are also encouraged to provide feedback after their events, and obtain a personalized certificate of participation.

The national safety stand-down is part of OSHA’s fall prevention campaign, and was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Occupational Research Agenda, and The Center for Construction Research and Training.

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 Issues Revised Rule Concerning OSHA Access to Employee Medical Records

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has revised the Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning Occupational Safety and Health Administration Access to Employee Medical Records. The rule describes internal procedures that OSHA personnel must follow when obtaining and using personally-identifiable employee medical information.

OSHA has identified and amended several provisions of the regulation in order to improve efficiency in implementing these internal procedures. The final rule:

  • Transfers the approval of written medical access orders (MAOs) from the Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health to the OSHA Medical Records Officer (MRO). The MRO is responsible for determining the transfer and public disclosure of personally-identifiable employee medical information in OSHA’s possession;
  • Clarifies that a written MAO does not constitute an administrative subpoena; and
  • Establishes new procedures for the access and safeguarding of personally-identifiable employee medical information maintained in electronic 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.

OSHA Issues Frequently Asked Questions About Face Coverings, Masks and Respirators in the Workplace

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published a series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the use of masks in the workplace.

“As our economy reopens for business, millions of Americans will be wearing masks in their workplace for the first time,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “OSHA is ready to help workers and employers understand how to properly use masks so they can stay safe and healthy in the workplace.”

The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. It further reminds employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. In addition, the guidance notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on washing face coverings.

These frequently asked questions and answers mark the latest guidance from OSHA addressing protective measures for workplaces during the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, OSHA published numerous guidance documents for workers and employers, available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/, including five guidance documents aimed at expanding the availability of respirators.

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

OSHA Issues Guidance to Help Construction Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a webpage with coronavirus-related guidance for construction employers and workers. The guidance includes recommended actions to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

Employers of workers engaged in construction (such as carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/air conditioning/ventilation, utility construction work, and earth-moving activities) should remain alert to changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability. In response to changing conditions, employers should implement coronavirus infection prevention measures accordingly.

The webpage includes information regarding:

  • Using physical barriers, such as walls, closed doors, or plastic sheeting, to separate workers from individuals experiencing signs or symptoms consistent with the coronavirus;
  • Keeping in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limiting the number of workers in attendance, and using social distancing practices;
  • Screening calls when scheduling indoor construction work to assess potential exposures and circumstances in the work environment before worker entry;
  • Requesting that shared spaces in home environments where construction activities are being performed, or other construction areas in occupied buildings, have good air flow; and
  • Staggering work schedules, such as alternating workdays or extra shifts, to reduce the total number of employees on a job site at any given time and to ensure physical distancing.

Visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage frequently for updates. For further information about the coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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 Adopts Revised Enforcement Policies For Coronavirus

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted revised policies for enforcing OSHA’s requirements with respect to coronavirus as economies reopen in states throughout the country.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, understanding about the transmission and prevention of infection has improved. The government and the private sector have taken rapid and evolving measures to slow the virus’s spread, protect employees, and adapt to new ways of doing business.

Now, as states begin reopening their economies, OSHA has issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees.

First, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. The new enforcement guidancereflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.

Second, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus. Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, coronavirus is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of the coronavirus, if the case:

Under the new policy issued today, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.

Recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Following existing regulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. 

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA’s coronavirus 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 OSHA Interim Enforcement Response Plan to Protect Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an interim enforcement response plan for the coronavirus pandemic. The response plan provides instructions and guidance to OSHA Area Offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling coronavirus-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. 

During the coronavirus outbreak, OSHA Area Offices will utilize their inspection resources to fulfill mission essential functions and protect workers exposed to the disease. The response plan contains interim procedures that allow flexibility and discretion for field offices to maximize OSHA’s impact in securing safe workplaces in this evolving environment. 

“OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers during this challenging time in our nation’s history,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt said. “Today’s guidance outlines commonsense procedures for investigating complaints related to the coronavirus, while also ensuring the safety of workers, employers, and inspectors.”

The response plan outlines procedures for addressing reports of workplace hazards related to the coronavirus. Fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to the coronavirus will be prioritized for on-site inspections. The response plan contains procedures and sample documentation for CSHOs to use during coronavirus-related inspections. Workers requesting inspections, complaining of coronavirus exposure, or reporting illnesses may be protected under one or more whistleblower statutes and will be informed of their protections from retaliation.

This memorandum will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. It is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis. Check OSHA’s webpage at www.osha.gov/coronavirusfrequently for updates.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.