In a recent memo released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA is authorizing an increase of in-person inspections in areas where the spread of COVID-19 has slowed down. This memo is also enforcing employers to report COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
The guidelines in this recent memo is a turnaround to the guidelines released back in April, during the height of the pandemic. In April, OSHA had suspended in-person inspections for all but the most high risk workplaces. OSHA had also relaxed record keeping rules for employers.
Presently, OSHA now informs offices in regions with a slowdown of COVID-19 spread to “follow normal procedures.” This means that, while high risk workplaces should still be given preference, medium and low risk workplaces can now return to have in person inspections.
However, OSHA also recognizes that some areas are still confronted with a surge of COVID-19 cases. In these areas, OSHA gives regional offices the discretion to choose their own approach for high risk workplace investigations, either remotely or in-person.
A common example of a high risk workplace are hospitals that have exposed their workers to COVID-19 due to not providing their workers with personal protective equipment.
The example above might provide a better grasp of the dilemma regional offices must undergo in deciding whether to conduct a remote or in-person investigation. OSHA urges regional offices to gather all relevant factors before deciding their approach and to insure the safety of their own workers by staring a remote investigation if resources do not allow for an in-person one.
In addition to the return of in-person inspections, OSHA also has reinstated the obligation for employers to disclose when workers have contracted COVID-19 in the workplace. This obligation is part of OSHA’s record-keeping rule, which makes employers in certain industries keep record and report to OSHA any injuries and illnesses linked to the job.
Yet, the memo also give certain leeway to employers’ disclosures as a report does not have to be made to OSHA if certain evidence can prove that the worker did not contract COVID-19 in the workplace but rather from public exposure.
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