- OSHA has published a list of the most-violated standards during COVID-19 inspections in an effort to help employers better protect their workers. The agency also issued guidance that will assist contractors and other businesses in passing,jobsite inspections.
- The most frequently cited violations are those related to respiratory protection (1910.134) and, specifically, the lack of medical evaluations and fit tests. The next-most violated standards are related to respiratory protection programs: not implementing a written program with worksite-specific safety procedures; not providing employees with information about using respirators when their use is not mandatory; and not designating a qualified administrator to ensure the respiratory program's effectiveness.
- OSHA is using existing standards when inspecting jobsites for COVID-19 violations because it chose not to develop and issue COVID-19-specific emergency standards due to the evolving guidance from public health officials. The AFL-CIO tried to get the agency to provide specific guidance, but its legal challenge was unsuccessful.
In addition to respiratory protection citations, OSHA also cited employers with violations of:
- Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (Subpart 1904).
- Personal Protective Equipment (1910.132).
- General Duty Clause (OSH Act 5(a)(1)).
On its website, OSHA says that in order to come into compliance in advance of an inspection, employers should consider:
- Providing a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator.
- Using a tight-fitting respirator to perform the fit test.
- Assessing the workplace to determine if COVID-19 hazards are or are likely to be present and if they will require the use of a respirator and/or other PPE.
- Establishing, implementing and updating a written, worksite-specific respiratory protection program;
- Providing an appropriate respirator and/or other PPE to each employee when necessary.
- Providing up-to-date training to workers on the safe use of respirators and/or other PPE.
- Properly storing respirators and other PPE to protect them from damage.
- Timely reporting of work-related fatalities.
- Keeping required records of work-related fatalities, injuries and illness.
Employers are required to make sure employees wear respirators when jobsite conditions call for their use. Some respirators capture fumes, others dust, but they should not be confused with face coverings like masks and shields that do not achieve as tight a fit. OSHA has issued guidance that construction workers wear face coverings while on the job in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to practice social distancing when possible.
In the absence of federal OSHA standards regarding the novel coronavirus, some states — Virginia, Michigan and Oregon, which have OSHA-approved state safety programs — have introduced COVID-19 emergency standards. While each program is different in its details, they all have similar components such as the mandatory use of face coverings, social distancing and daily screening of workers and visitors for signs of infection.
One COVID-19-related rule that OSHA has introduced is the mandatory reporting of workplace-related COVID fatalities within eight hours of learning about it. The reporting is only required if the case was connected to workplace exposure.