COVID-19 OSHA Activity

COVID-19 OSHA Activity

For the latest information and resources on Coronavirus, please visit the RCM&D COVID-19 Resource Center at https://info.rcmd.com/covid19.

The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 6559):

Across the country, U.S. workers are suffering from potentially preventable illness and death because they do not have basic safety protections from COVID-19.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 16,000 U.S. health care workers have been infected with COVID-19. Additional outbreaks have been reported at a wide range of workplaces across the country, including one meat processing plant where more than 500 workers were infected with the virus.  Due to these alarming statistics and the fact that OSHA has yet to develop a standard specific to COVID-19/infectious airborne illnesses, House Democrats introduced a bill to protect all U.S. workers, regardless of industry, from COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act (H.R. 6559) would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard that establishes a legal obligation for all workplaces (universal to all industries) to implement infectious disease exposure control plans to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID–19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020 Specifics:

  • Requires OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard within seven days that covers all workers and requires all workplaces to implement infectious disease exposure control plans to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • OSHA would be required to issue a permanent comprehensive infectious disease standard within two years.
  • Requires OSHA to forbid employers from retaliating against workers for reporting infection control problems to their employer, any public authority, to the media or on a social media platform.
  • The standard would also forbid employers from retaliating against workers for using their own higher level personal protective equipment if the employer does not provide it.
  • Protects public employees across the country by requiring the 24 states where public employees are not currently covered by OSHA to adopt the ETS within 14 days of enactment; Gives OSHA the discretion not to issue citations to hospitals and other covered employers due to shortages of equipment, if:
  • The employer can show that they are making a good-faith effort to purchase personal protective equipment and come into compliance, and
  • The employer is implementing alternative methods to protect its employees.
  • Requires CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to track and investigate work related COVID-19 infections and make recommendations on needed actions or guidance to protect such employees.

Regulatory Compliance:

In order to stay ahead of the game during these evolving times, contact RCM&D Risk Consultants at: 800.346.4075.

This webpage will be updated as the bill matures through the legal process.

Current OSHA Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19):

OSHA will continue to ensure safe and healthy conditions for America’s working men and women by enforcing standards during this health crisis. In addition, heightened attention will be given to the risks posed by COVID-19. The interim response plan outlines how OSHA will continue to discharge these responsibilities in the differing circumstances throughout the country.

OSHA Interim Enforcement Plan Areas of Focus:

  • 29 CFR § 1904, Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness.
  • 29 CFR § 1910.132, General Requirements - Personal Protective Equipment.
  • 29 CFR § 1910.133, Eye and Face protection.
  • 29 CFR § 1910.134, Respiratory Protection.
  • 29 CFR § 1910.141, Sanitation.
  • 29 CFR § 1910.145, Specification for Accident Prevention Signs and Tags.
  • 29 CFR § 1910.1020, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records.

Section 5(a)(1), General Duty Clause of the OSH Act.

This Interim Enforcement Response Plan sets forth interim procedures that allow flexibility and discretion for OSHA field offices to maximize OSHA’s impact in securing safe workplaces for workers in this evolving environment. As with responding to any complaint, an examination of the facts will guide the determination of the best enforcement approach and appropriate action to take based on the employer’s response.

OSHA Discretion in Enforcement when Considering an Employer's Good Faith Efforts During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic:

In light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, OSHA understands that some employers may face difficulties complying with OSHA standards due to the ongoing health emergency.  Business closures and other restrictions and limitations may preclude employee participation in training even when trainers are available.  In other situations, access to medical testing facilities may be limited or suspended.

During the course of an inspection, OSHA Area Offices will assess an employer's efforts to comply with standards that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training, or assessments. OSHA will evaluate whether the employer made good faith efforts to comply with applicable OSHA standards and, in situations where compliance was not possible, to ensure that employees were not exposed to hazards from tasks, processes, or equipment for which they were not prepared or trained.  As part of assessing whether an employer engaged in good faith compliance efforts, OSHA will evaluate whether the employer thoroughly explored all options to comply with the applicable standard(s) (e.g., the use of virtual training or remote communication strategies).  OSHA will also consider any interim alternative protections implemented or provided to protect employees, such as engineering or administrative controls, and whether the employer took steps to reschedule the required annual activity as soon as possible.

Additional Resources:

The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act (H.R. 6559): https://urldefense.com/v3/__http:/go.ciab.com/e/324401/download-23411-/23s8fq/468104711?h=eznZp6EMs71jEcV44DI-jcmW8-R6sexjJeTamPphEIE__;!!J76q343m!W9YMUxNfVuMFZf1_1bnLSqvS8QYaQnYszmI6nzynsxTwVvI_2vbcvksQ5BzQ1A$

OSHA COVID-19 News and Updates: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/news_updates.html

OSHA COVID-19 Interim Enforcement Plan: https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-04-13/interim-enforcement-response-plan-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

OSHA COVID-19 Good Faith Enforcement Discretion: https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-04-16/discretion-enforcement-when-considering-employers-good-faith-efforts-during