News & Insights

Osha Covid Investigations

Across the nation, COVID-19 cases continue to rise and so have COVID-related complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). OSHA has initiated over 1,000 investigations related to COVID, and as of October 22, 2020, OSHA had issued just under 150 COVID-related citations. OSHA has not developed standards specific to COVID-related concerns. Instead, it is applying existing OSHA standards.

More frequently cited standards tend to fall into similar categories: (1) respiratory protection where employers are cited for lack of a written respiratory protection program, failure to perform fit testing and provide a medical evaluation to determine an employee’s ability to use a respirator, and lack of adequate training; (2) general PPE requirements where employers are cited for failing to assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present that require the use of PPE and failing to train employees on proper PPE use; (3) recordkeeping and reporting where employers are cited for failing to properly record work-related COVID illnesses and report work-related COVID hospitalizations; and (4) general duty clause where employers are cited for failing to provide a work environment “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” as required by the general duty clause of the OSHA Act.

States have also been inspecting OSHA-related complaints, with over 3,5000 inspections as of early November. COVID-related OSHA complaints have targeted industries that have remained at work through the pandemic, as well as those with a high potential for exposure. Many complaints have been received in the healthcare industry, but other employers include the retail and food industries, courier and delivery industries and the warehousing and storage industries.  Employers should periodically review their COVID practices at work to ensure they are not opening themselves up to a potential OSHA complaint.