OSHA Surveys Related to COVID-19
While the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) inspection activities have recently resumed in areas where the community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased, the agency is currently prioritizing facilities and programs with COVID-19 fatalities and imminent danger exposures for inspection. Particular attention for on-site inspections will be given to high-risk workplaces, such as hospitals and other healthcare providers treating patients with COVID-19, as well as workplaces with high numbers of complaints or known COVID-19 cases. In addition, remote off-site inspections are being conducted when applicable.
OSHA issued an Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), effective May 26, 2020, that addresses the handling of COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports and enforcement criteria related to the Respiratory Protection Standard.
Recoding & Reporting COVID-19 Cases
The guidance defines COVID-19 as a recordable illness under OSHA’s record-keeping requirements for work-related illnesses. An employer must consider an injury or illness to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing injury or illness, unless an exception applies.
Employers are responsible for recording COVID-19 illnesses if the case:
- Is confirmed as a COVID-19 illness, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Is work-related based on the information available (work-relatedness may be difficult to determine where there’s communitywide transmission of COVID-19; however, the employer must make all reasonable efforts to determine whether it’s a work-related illness)
- Includes one or more of OSHA’s general recording criteria, namely medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work
Employers are required to comply with the following OSHA reporting time frames:
- Report work-related fatalities to OSHA within eight hours
- Report work-related in-patient hospitalizations within 24 hours
- Report fatalities that occur within 30 days of a work-related incident
Enforcement Criteria Related to Respiratory Protection Standard
OSHA requires employers to develop, implement, and maintain a respiratory protection program that includes specific workplace procedures and program evaluation to protect employees from workplace hazards. Employers are required to train employees on all elements of this standard, including the proper use, application, and removal of respiratory equipment. Employers are expected to make a good-faith effort to obtain, provide, and ensure healthcare workers use the most appropriate respiratory protection available for exposure to COVID-19.
The guidance includes specific enforcement discretion for OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard during the COVID-19 outbreak, which has resulted in the shortage of respirators, surgical masks, and fit-testing supplies and equipment. The following steps are included in the guidance:
- Implementing safe work practices to eliminate workplace hazards and prevent worker exposures to respiratory hazards.
- Prioritizing efforts to obtain and use respiratory equipment.
- Prioritizing efforts to acquire and use equipment that hasn’t exceeded its manufacturer’s recommended shelf life before allowing workers to use equipment that’s beyond its manufacturer’s recommended shelf life:
- Equipment used beyond its manufacturer’s recommended shelf life must be used in accordance with OSHA’s April 3, 2020, memo.
- Prioritizing efforts to use equipment that hasn’t exceeded its intended service life before implementing protocols for extended use or reuse of equipment.
- Extended use or reuse of equipment should follow the CDC’s Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of N95 Respirators and OSHA guidelines.
- The use of homemade masks or improvised mouth and nose covers, as a last resort, when no respirators or face masks are available:
- Improvised masks aren’t personal protective equipment and, ideally, should be used with a face shield to cover the front and sides of the face.
- When this measure is the only resort, refer to the CDC’s guidance.
If you have any questions about OSHA requirements, please reach out to your BKD Trusted Advisor™ or submit the Contact Us form below.