OSHA to Increase Workplace Inspections

Source: olgedudko/123RF

Washington — OSHA has revised its enforcement policy for recordable cases of COVID-19, adding that it will increase workplace inspections.

Announced in a May 19 press release, the new enforcement policy overrides an April 10 guidance memo that required only employers in the health care industry, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions to make work-related determinations of COVID-19 cases.

All other employers were exempt except in cases in which “objective evidence” existed that a COVID-19 infection was work-related or the evidence was “reasonably available” to the employer.

Now, OSHA states that COVID-19 cases are recordable if the illness is confirmed as COVID-19, the illness is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5 and the case involves at least one of the general recording criteria listed in 29 CFR 1904.7.

The criteria include days away from work, medical treatment “beyond first aid,” loss of consciousness, and restricted work or transfer to another job.

OSHA says, “Recording a COVID-19 illness does not, of itself, mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard.”

When determining whether an employer has complied with the revised policy, OSHA instructs compliance officers in a memo issued the same day to apply these considerations:

  • The reasonableness of the employer’s investigation into whether the COVID-19 case was work-related;
  • The evidence available to the employer; and
  • The evidence that COVID-19 was contracted at work.

For the last consideration, the agency provides scenarios of “certain types of evidence” to determine whether COVID-19 cases are likely work-related.

Employers with no more than 10 employees and certain employers in “low-hazard industries” do not have an obligation to report COVID-19 cases unless a work-related illness results in death, in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.

According to OSHA, its decision to increase the number of inspections is a result of “changing circumstances in which many noncritical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread.”

The agency notes in the release that “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.”