OSHA Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
May 20, 2020
By: Karl F. Kumli
On Tuesday May 19, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new enforcement guidance for areas of the country that have seen low or falling incidents of community spread of COVID-19. This guidance replaces the guidance OSHA issued in April which relaxed enforcement for certain kinds of reporting. Critically, this new guidance instructs inspectors to follow normal procedures for inspections in low and moderate infection hazard workplaces. The guidance also gives greater local autonomy to OSHA offices in determining how to pursue investigations of complaints from high risk industries, such as reports that a hospital or meat packing plant is failing to provide appropriate protective equipment. Tuesday’s release reinstates the requirement that industries with injury and illness reporting requirements track and record COVID-19 infections, a requirement that had been relaxed in April’s guidance. The enforcement memos produced by OSHA in April were focused on reducing the exposure of OSHA employees and respecting social distancing guidelines. As more of the country returns to work, we can expect to see a more traditional response from OSHA to safety complaints, whether those complaints are based on COVID-19 or other workplace safety issues.