OSHA and the COVID Pandemic

As if it wasn't already tough enough navigating OSHA rules and regulations, construction owners have been dealing with restrictions concerning the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Just in the last week a Southern California’s Farmer John meatpacking plant near Los Angeles was assessed more than $58,000 for safety violations connected to the virus. Officials there say more than 300 workers were infected with COVID-19, including three who were hospitalized.

In New Jersey a number of companies are facing OSHA fines including two hospitals in Montclair and Newark.

Fayette County Public Schools in Kentucky is facing thousands of dollars in fines after OSHA officials say they completed a months-long investigation into the school’s transportation department. The investigation was launched after 19 employees became sick with one bus employee dying from COVID-19.

Though some of the institutions fined may not directly be related to construction, the incidents make it clear, OSHA isn't playing around when it comes to COVID-19 and what they expect on your worksite.

OSHA has issued guidance and an accompanying one-pager to help employers understand which standards are most frequently cited during inspections. Officials based these documents on data from citations issued to companies.

Areas of focus during inspections are mask protection, COVID-19 incident reporting, other protective equipment including gloves and hand sanitizers, and the General Duty Clause.

It's expected employers engage in the following practices:

  • Provide a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator.
  • Establish, implement, and update a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures. 
  • Train workers to safely use respirators and/or other PPE in the workplace, and retrain workers about changes in the workplace that might make previous training obsolete.
  • Store respirators and other PPE properly in a way to protect them from damage, contamination, and, where applicable, deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve.
  • Keep required records of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illness. 

OSHA is providing the guidance to help employers protect workers and increase compliance with OSHA requirements.

OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small- and medium-sized businesses to identify hazards, provides advice for compliance with OSHA standards, and assists in establishing and improving safety and health programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations.