OSHA’s early criticism

OSHA was criticized earlier this year for not putting COVID-19 issues front and center in their efforts to ensure Safety & Health in the workplace. They appeared to stick to what they knew and may have been slow to react. All of that thinking has since changed as they have recently stepped up their efforts to enforce healthy workplaces through workplace inspections and subsequent financial penalties.

Taking a more aggressive stance

It appears OSHA may not be just waiting to be called due to a workplace complaint. They are aggressively looking for unhealthy workplaces and practices. For instance, in the last few months they are using their On-Site Consultation Team to visit businesses to inspect masks, safety glasses and other PPE to assist frontline workers.

It ramps up significantly from there. In OSHA’s Oct 19, 2020 issue of “Quick Takes” (OSHA’s twice monthly newsletter) they post the amount of violations cited by their dollar penalties. To date $1.22M in violations have been written for 85 establishments at an average of $14,378 per organization – which is a significant amount. Not to mention that the States with their own State Plans are citing as well. Michigan cited 19 companies with violations related to COVID-19 for a total of $51,400. That may not sound like much, but as an average that equates to $2,700/fine. No business wants to be fined like this. Furthermore, it is never over once you have been cited. Once cited, you are on the radar and they may well be back to see how successfully you were able to address the initial findings.

In that same article, they detail who has been cited and the amounts in violations. Largely it is the Healthcare and Rehabilitation sector, but it has spilled over into food processing industries, other manufacturing, and general construction.

What COVID-19 related infractions can you be cited for?

Since there are no regulation’s on Pandemics, what can they cite you on? Plenty. These are listed as the failures that brought the most violations:

  • Implementing a Respiratory Protection Program
  • Providing a medical evaluation, respirator fit test, training on the proper use of a respirator and personal protective equipment
  • Report of an injury, illness, or a fatality
  • Record of an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms (OSHA 300)
  • Compliance to the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.      

Remember- if they know that an employer is not doing the right things for their people, but there is no direct relationship to a requirement, they can ALWAYS cite under the General Duty Clause (see below).

Each employer —

(1) Shall furnish to each of his employees’ employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.

(2) Shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

What can you do to avoid penalties?

The good news in all this is that you are not alone in this. Safety Services Company is here to help!

We can provide expert guidance and have developed a number of COVID-19 specific solutions including COVID-19 Mitigation Plans, safety policies such as “Pandemic Preparedness”, and COVID-19 safety training that’s available online or as a DIY training kit.

Click here to Learn More, or call us for a FREE consultation.

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