An African American woamn in foreground and a group of co-workers wearing face masks sit opposite each other at a workstation table

OSHA Expands COVID-19 Guidance

The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has updated its guidance on COVID-19 worker protections.

On January 29, OSHA posted stronger Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace for employers and workers in most workplace settings outside of healthcare. It is intended to help identify risks of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19 at work and determine appropriate control measures to implement. OSHA will continue to update the guidance.

The new OSHA guidance came in response to an executive order from president Joe Biden. The order further directs OSHA to issue any necessary emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to the use of masks in the workplace, by March 15, 2021. 

Frequently Cited

As of January 11, OSHA had issued citations totaling almost $4 million in proposed COVID-19-related fines for violations of federal safety standards by employers during more than 300 inspections. These standards include Respiratory Protection, Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, Personal Protective Equipment and the General Duty Clause.

OSHA released a one-page document, “Lessons Learned”, focusing on the most-frequently cited standards that employers fail to follow, which include:

  • Provide a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator.

  • Establish, implement, and update a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures.

  • Train workers to safely use respirators and/or other PPE in the workplace and retrain workers about changes in the workplace that might make previous training obsolete.

  • Store respirators and other PPE properly in a way to protect them from damage, contamination, and, where applicable, deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve.

Expanded Focus 

Other federal departments including Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Energy, were also ordered to explore means of protecting workers not protected under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OSHA Illness and Injury Reporting Requirements

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