Stronger OSHA Action on COVID-19 Coming Soon

Posted on 1/22/2021 by Roger Marks

[Update 01/29/21] OSHA posted new guidance for employers to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace on January 29, 2021.

The newly issued guidance lists sixteen key elements of the "most effective COVID-19 prevention programs," including assignment of a workplace coordinator for COVID-19 issues, employee risk assessment, employee training, and more. 

View the new COVID-19 guidance here. 

[Update 01/26/21] The Executive Order "Protecting Worker Health and Safety" appeared in the Federal Register today, January 26, 2021. 

Joe Biden has directed OSHA to do more to protect workers from COVID-19 and enforce workplace safety standards. An Executive Order signed January 21, 2021 sets forth instructions for the safety agency to produce revised guidance for employers, beef up its enforcement efforts, and consider new regulations for workplaces.

The new Executive Order directs OSHA to:
  • Launch a national enforcement program on COVID-19
  • Issue a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard by March 15, 2021 (if OSHA determines that one is needed),
  • Identify changes to enforcement related to COVID-19 that could be made to better protect workers, and
  • Within two weeks, issue revised guidance for employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
Lion continues to track guidance and policies released by OSHA, US EPA, US DOT that impact environmental, safety, and hazardous materials professionals. Check out the COVID-19 EHS News Hub.

Coordination with States

OSHA must coordinate with states to ensure that any guidance and/or regulations created will adequately protect workers from COVID-19.

In the absence of a Federal standard on COVID-19 during the pandemic, many states passed laws and policies that require employers to address the risk of virus transmission with employee training and workplace controls.  

Virginia recently passed the first permanent COVID-19 workplace safety standards in the nation.

For information on state programs in place in California, Texas, New York, and many other states, see our COVID-19 Training State-by-State blog.

COVID-19 Enforcement So Far

OSHA has already cited hundreds of employers for failure to protect workers from COVID-19. Lion's COVID-19 Enforcement By the Numbers Report shows that COVID-19 enforcement has largely concerned four specific 29 CFR Standards: 

  • Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134) 
  • Injury & Illness Reporting/Recordkeeping (29 CFR 1904) 
  • Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030(c)-(g)) 
  • PPE Requirements (29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1)

Through December 31, 2020, OSHA has proposed $3,930,381 in civil penalties for employer violations relating to the coronavirus. 

COVID-19 Training Required for Employees

The new COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness online course will help satisfy state-level employee information and COVID-19 training requirements. 

Employees who complete this course will be ready to: 
  • Recognize signs, symptoms, and risk factors of COVID-19 
  • Describe how the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus is transmitted
  • Use general hygiene and work practices that limit COVID-19 exposure
  • Use and care for personal protective equipment (PPE) when required 
The course run time is one hour and employees can complete it 100% online, at their own pace. Each employee who completes this course receives a Certificate employers can use as part of employee training records to help satisfy OSH Act responsibilities and state-level COVID-19 training mandates. 

Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, COVID-19 training, SARS-CoV-2

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