OSHA Issues New FAQs Regarding Face Coverings Amidst Employees’ Return to the Workplace

On June 10, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a series of frequently asked questions and answers (FAQs) regarding the recommended use of surgical masks, cloth face coverings, and respirators in the workplace in the wake of ongoing health concerns arising from the continued spread of COVID-19. The new guidelines recognize that as many workers begin to return to their places of employment throughout the United States, some may be wearing masks in the workplace for the first time. The FAQs embody the most recent guidance from OSHA addressing protective measures for the workplace during the coronavirus pandemic.

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OSHA Changes COVID-19 Recordkeeping Requirements for Employers (Again)

On May 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published revised enforcement guidance detailing when employers must record COVID-19 illnesses.  The new guidance reverses course on prior guidance dated April 10, 2020 which relaxed the circumstances when most employers would need to record these illnesses. The new guidance becomes effective on May 26, 2020, and will remain in effect until further notice.

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Understanding OSHA’s New Guidance on Recording COVID-19 Cases and Related Employee Privacy Concerns

On April 10, 2020, OSHA issued additional guidance for employers on their obligations to record COVID-19 cases which can be found here.

Prior to this guidance, OSHA made clear that COVID-19 cases may be recordable if a worker is infected as a result of performing work-related duties. Thus, employers would need to record COVID-19 cases if all of the following conditions are met:

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OSHA Considerations For Working Remotely

Many businesses are permitting employees to work from home in response to COVID-19 and many more will do so particularly as states like New York have and/or will be restricting the number of employees at the worksite. 

Does this mean the employer must inspect an employee’s home to ensure that it is a safe and healthy work environment under OSHA? The answer is generally no. In 2002, OSHA provided guidance regarding telecommuting available here.

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Settling an OSHA Citation with Enhanced Abatements? Consider Potential COVID-19 Implications

It is not unusual for OSHA to request “enhanced abatements” when resolving citations. Enhanced abatement is when an employer agrees to perform certain abatement actions beyond the recognized hazard in the specifically cited standard. For example, if an employer receives a machine guarding citation for failure to guard machine A, OSHA may request the employer perform a corporate-wide guarding audit for all equipment in addition to guarding machine A. Other common examples of enhanced abatement include committing to performing future employee training at all facilities in applicable areas or agreeing to conduct safety and health audits with OSHA’s consultation branch or an independent safety and health firm.

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Addressing an Epidemic in the Workplace: Best Practices and Legal Considerations

As the evolving coronavirus virus (COVID-19) first discovered in China continues to grow in both China and other countries including the United States, businesses here need to consider a number of factors in preparing a response plan. One of the most challenging issues in dealing with any epidemic affecting the workplace is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A multitude of factors needs to be considering in formulating an appropriate response plan including but not limited to the nature of the epidemic, size of the business, the specific industry, the demographics of the workforce, and operational needs. In addition, there are numerous laws which must be carefully considered in any response plan such as OSHA, Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to name just a few. 

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Recording of Injuries/Illnesses Under OSHA

As mentioned in our last blog, the time for covered employers to post the OSHA 300A Summary is from February 1 to April 30.  It is also a good time to revisit the issue of what kinds of injuries and illnesses should be recorded as employers sometimes struggle with this fact-sensitive question. OSHA has several sources that can assist with this determination. The OSHA recordkeeping forms themselves provide guidance on this issue. 

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Reminder: OSHA 300A Summary to be Posted from February 1 Until April 30

It’s that time of year again – for covered employers to post the OSHA 300A, i.e., a summary of the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred last year.  The OSHA 300 Log is not required to be posted, only the summary. Employers with ten or fewer employees and employers in certain industry groups are normally exempt from federal OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and posting requirements. A complete list of exempt industries in the retail, services, finance, and real estate sectors is posted on OSHA’s website.

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