Thursday, November 5, 2020

Coronavirus Update 11-5-2020: OSHA levies $2 million in COVID-related citations and penalties

Are you tired of the endless din of vote counts and election news? Let's get back to the uplifting topic of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

OSHA recently announced a spate of COVID-related citations totaling $2,025,431 in fines. 

What issues is OSHA seeing across employers?

  • Failing to implement a written respiratory protection program;
  • Failing to provide a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on the proper use of a respirator and personal protective equipment;
  • Failing to report an injury, illness or fatality;
  • Failing to record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms; and
  • Failing to comply with the General Duty Clause
That last one is the OSHA/COVID kick in the you-know-whats. OSHA's General Duty Clause requires that each employer "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees." It's of vital importance during a pandemic because OSHA lacks any specific standards on infectious disease or viral prevention. For this reason, most employers' COVID-related failures will be related to failures to meet their "general duty" to keep their employees safe. 

What does this mean in practice? These steps, recommended by OSHA in its Guidance on PreparingWorkplaces for COVID-19, is a good starting point for OSHA COVID-19 compliance:
  1. Require workers to stay home if they are sick
  2. Follow CDC rules on isolation for those with COVID-19 and quarantine for those within close contact with those with COVID-19
  3. Inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and report any that they have
  4. Mandate face masks or other facial coverings
  5. Establish rules that allow for six feet of physical distancing whenever practical, or install barriers when it is not
  6. Promote frequent and thorough hand washing
  7. Immediately isolate anyone symptomatic at work
  8. Prohibit the use of shared equipment
  9. Consider flexible work arrangements such as staggered shifts and schedules, and telecommuting
  10. Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment