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Amid COVID-19 Whistleblower Complaints, OIG Makes OSHA Recommendations

Posted on 8/25/2020 by Lauren Scott

The US Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (DOL OIG) has concluded that OSHA must improve its Whisteblower Protection Program (WPP) after an audit report revealed the agency failed to respond to complaints in a timely manner.

According to the OIG report, whistleblower complaints increased by 30% during the first four months of the pandemic (Feb. 1 – Mar. 31) compared to the same time in 2019. Of the 4,101 complaints received in February and March of this year, 1,618 of them were COVID-19 related.

Help keep your employees safe and operations running smoothly during the pandemic with Lion’s COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness Training.

Complaint back logs were further exacerbated by OSHA staffing shortages, according to the OIG’s report. In 2020, full-time WPP investigators dropped from 126 to 120, resulting in some investigators taking on more than double the recommended case load.

Prior to the pandemic, OSHA began a triage pilot intended to expedite the complaint screening process and also redistributed older complaints from regions with large backlogs to regions with lesser backlogs. However, OSHA had not utilized a similar approach during the pandemic to more evenly distribute whistleblower complaints.

OIG warned that these backlogs could create significant challenges for workers who choose to speak up about adverse working conditions. “When OSHA fails to respond in a timely manner,” according to the report, “it could leave workers to suffer emotionally and financially, and may also lead to the erosion of key evidence and witnesses.”

COVID-19 Training Now Required in 15 States

These whistleblower complaints show that employees who continued to work through the pandemic feel their employers should be doing more to protect them from coronavirus exposure in the workplace. Under the OSH Act General Duty Clause, employers are required to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards that can hurt or kill employees.

In fact, many states now require employers provide COVID-19 safety training for their employees, including California, Texas, Illinois, Washington, New York, and Kentucky. In Virginia, COVID-19 training must be completed no later than August 26, 2020. In many other states, training must be completed as soon as an employee returns to work.

This training typically includes topics such as respiratory hygiene, how to clean and disinfect the workplace, social/physical distancing best practices, and what to do if an employee is sick.

COVID-19 Safety Awareness Online Training

To help US workplaces safely resume and continue operations, Lion just launched the COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness Online Course. As more employees nationwide return to work, it is crucial that they know how to protect themselves and their co-workers from exposure to COVID-19.

The course prepares employees to:
  • Recognize signs, symptoms, and risk factors for COVID-19
  • Describe how the COVID-19 disease is transmitted
  • Follow recommended hygiene and work protocols to prevent exposure
  •  Properly use and care for PPE and face coverings, when required 

Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, COVID-19 training, osha, whistleblower, workplace complaints, workplace safety

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