On November 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it had issued citations arising from 244 inspections for coronavirus-related violations across the U.S., resulting in proposed penalties of more than $3.3 million.
While OSHA has not implemented specific coronavirus workplace safety standards, employers must still comply with OSHA’S existing standards for pandemic-related safety risks. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause, employers are required to provide a work environment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
OSHA inspections have resulted in the agency citing employers for violations, including failures to:
- Provide a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator
- Perform an appropriate fit test for workers using tight-fitting respirators
- Assess the workplace to determine if COVID-19 hazards are present or likely to be present, which will require the use of a respirator and/or other PPE
- Establish, implement, and update a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures
- Provide an appropriate respirator and/or other PPE to each worker when necessary to protect the health of employees (ensuring the respirator and/or PPE used is the correct type and size)
- 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 face piece and exhalation valve.
- For any fatality that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident, report the fatality to OSHA within eight hours of finding out about it
- Keep required records of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses
According to OSHA, fines for coronavirus-related citations range from $1,928 to $32,965. OSHA provides more information about individual citations at its Establishment Search website, which is updated periodically.