OSHA Inspections and Penalties for Coronavirus-Related Violations on the Rise
Did you know that the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s health and safety standards apply to COVID-19? Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has received approximately 12,000 complaints and conducted nearly 300 inspections related to COVID-19. These inspections have resulted in proposed penalties against employers totaling more than $3.5 million.
The most common violations cited by OSHA include failures to:
- implement a written respiratory protection program;
- provide medical evaluations, respirator fit tests, training on the proper use of a respirator and personal protective equipment;
- report an injury, illness or fatality;
- record an injury or illness on OSHA recordkeeping forms; and
- comply with the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause.
While covered employers are responsible for complying with all applicable health and safety standards, those relating to personal protective equipment (PPE), respiratory protection and sanitation may be especially relevant for preventing the workplace spread of COVID-19. Employers that are not subject to a specific OSHA standard must still comply with the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, which requires each employer to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.
OSHA’s emphasis on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace should provide more than enough motivation for employers to do the same. Employers wanting to protect their business and avoid severe OSHA penalties must do their part to protect workers from COVID-19, including the implementation of appropriate preventative measures as required by applicable law or recommended by relevant public health authorities, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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