by  | May 26, 2020 | BlogRespiratory ProtectionWellness

As economies around the country begin to reopen among the lingering threat of coronavirus — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted updated policies for enforcing agency standards during this time.

On May 19, OSHA issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees. The first focuses on increasing in-person inspections, and the second will make coronavirus a recordable illness under OSHA’s record-keeping requirements.

COVID-19 as a Recordable Illness 

Employers should take note, as this revised policy is overriding the April 10 guidance memo, which only required that employers in specific industries — such as health care, emergency response, and correctional institutions — needed to make work-related determinations on COVID-19 cases.

All other employers were exempt unless there was “objective evidence” that a COVID-19 infection was work-related, or that there was reasonably available evidence.

OSHAs new guidance requires recording a COVID-19 illness if an employer has an employee with a case that:

    • death
    • days away from work
    • restricted work or transfer to another job
    • medical treatment beyond first aid
    • loss of consciousness
    • significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional

 

The above requirements do not apply to “employers with ten or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries” unless the work-related COVID-19 illnesses resulted in:

  • a fatality,
  • or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

The release states that “OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.”

Employers should be sure to record every case no matter where the virus was contracted. Simply recording an infection does not automatically mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard.

Increased Workplace Inspections 

OSHA’s decision to increase workplace inspections reflects changing economic circumstances in which many non-essential businesses have begun to reopen. As these businesses may have lower risks of transmissions as well as more personal protection widely available, there is no need to compromise compliance.

According to the memo: “OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.”

OSHA has given compliance health and safety officers (CHSOs) permission to use enforcement discretion when inspecting and assessing employers’ efforts to make COVID-19 work-related recordable illness determinations.

CSHOs should consider employee privacy concerns, employers’ lack of expertise in this medical area, evidence of employee potential exposure out-of-work, other COVID-19 cases in the workplace, and evidence provided by the employee, medical providers, or public health authorities.

The new guidance is officially in effect, as of Tuesday, May 26.

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