OSHA Sets Priorities for On-Site Inspections During Coronavirus Pandemic

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

April 15, 2020

The nation's workplace safety watchdog plans to focus its on-site inspections on fatalities and imminent danger related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) during the current public health emergency.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) interim enforcement response plan outlines the agency's priorities for regional administrators and inspectors.

The memo directs inspectors to identify potentially hazardous occupational exposures and make sure employers quickly mitigate those hazards and protect employees. Fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to COVID-19 will be prioritized for inspections, with particular attention given to healthcare organizations and first responders.

According to OSHA, employees have complained about:

  • A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as respirators, gloves and gowns;
  • A lack of training on appropriate standards; and
  • Possible COVID-19 illnesses in the workplace.

OSHA has the authority to inspect workplaces for safety and health violations and hazardous conditions. The agency will assess any hazards found during an inspection and may cite employers for noncompliance.

OSHA has not issued or even proposed formal regulations interpreting how the Occupational Safety and Health Act applies to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the agency has issued guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 and an alert aimed at preventing exposure.

The memo outlines several existing OSHA standards that may apply, depending on the circumstances of the case, including the General Duty Clause and the PPE standards.