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New OSHA COVID-19 FAQs – and Fines

Personal Protective Equipment, Safety News

​As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, OSHA has released new COVID-19 FAQs for employers, as well as information on recent COVID citations and fines.

New OSHA COVID-19 FAQs

OSHA recently published additional FAQs regarding the need to report employees’ in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities resulting from work-related cases of the coronavirus. The new FAQs provide information to help employers apply the agency’s existing injury and illness recording and reporting requirements to the coronavirus.

In particular, the FAQs provide guidance on how to calculate reporting deadlines for in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities and clarify the meaning of the term “incident” as it relates to work-related coronavirus in-patient hospitalizations and fatalities. These FAQs provide employers and employees with more information about how OSHA will enforce its standards and regulations during the pandemic.

Topics covered in the FAQs are:

  • Reporting
  • Retaliation
  • Returning to Work
  • Testing for COVID-19
  • Training
  • Worker Protection Concerns

Visit the OSHA COVID-19 FAQ page.

OSHA Announces $1.2 Million of Coronavirus Fines

From the start of the coronavirus pandemic to October 8, Federal OSHA has cited 85 establishments for COVID-related violations, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $1,222,156. OSHA inspections have resulted in the agency citing employers for violations, including failures to:

  • Implement a written respiratory protection program
  • Provide a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on the proper use of a respirator, and personal protective equipment
  • Report an injury, illness or fatality
  • Record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms
  • Comply with General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

A full list of what standards were cited for each establishment are available here. Read more on the latest violations here.

COVID-19 Whistleblower Complaints on the Rise

From Feb. 1 to May 31, the OSHA whistleblower program received 1,618 COVID-19-related whistleblower complaints. Numbers varied substantially across the 10 regions OSHA administers. Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin) saw 325 COVID-19-related complaints, the highest of any region. By contrast, Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington) received only 61 COVID-19- related whistleblower complaints, the fewest of any region. Investigators screened and administratively closed 858 of the COVID-19-related complaints. After screening, 404 complaints were docketed, which begins the fact-gathering process by notifying concerned parties of OSHA’s intent to open a formal investigation.

The backlog of COVID complaints has caused the Office of Inspector General to offer advice for addressing the increase in whistleblower cases. Recommendations include: Filling the five open whistleblower investigator vacancies; monitoring, evaluationg and extending a previously implemented pilot triage program to all regions; Expanding a preexisting caseload management system that reassigned older whistleblower complaints from backlogged regions to other regions with spare capacity. OSHA responded by informing the OIG that strengthening the whistleblower program continues to be one of OSHA’s top priorities and emphasizing the agency’s agreement with OIG recommendations.

 

Additional Resources:

OSHA Issues Employer Alerts on COVID-19

COVID-19 Safety Tips for Schools and Universities

How to Keep Manufacturing Sites Safe from COVID-19