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    COVID-19: Employers Avoid OSHA Fines With Good-Faith Efforts

    • Published
    • 17 April 2020
    • Category
    • News

    In response to the COVID-19 health emergency, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is allowing discretion in the enforcement of certain regulations. In a memo issued April 16, 2020, by the Acting Director of Enforcement Programs, OSHA inspectors are instructed to assess an employer’s good-faith efforts to comply with standards that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training or assessments.

    Where the employer cannot demonstrate any efforts to comply, a citation may be issued under existing enforcement policy. To help ensure that corrective actions are taken once normal activities resume, OSHA will develop a program to conduct monitoring inspections from a randomized sampling of cases where violations were noted but not cited, according to the memo.

    Barriers employers may face when attempting to comply with OSHA standards include business closures, limited access to medical testing services, travel restrictions, social distancing and facility visitor prohibitions, and  shelter-in-place requirements. Examples of situations in which enforcement discretion will be considered include:

    • Medical evaluation scenarios
    • Annual audiograms
    • Annual process safety management requirements
    • Hazardous waste operations training
    • Respirator fit testing and training
    • Maritime crane testing and certification
    • Construction crane operator certification

    A number of organizations have suggested alternative temporary strategies to protect workers during the pandemic. For example, the  American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine recommended that occupational spirometry (respiratory) testing be suspended because of concerns about spreading droplets containing the COVID-19 virus. The Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation recommended that audiometric evaluations be suspended until normal operations have resumed to minimize risk of exposure and conserve personal protective equipment.

     

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