OSHA Revises COVID-19 Enforcement Plan

May 20, 2020

OSHA recently revised its plan for enforcing safe workplace requirements concerning COVID-19. The memorandum the agency sent to its regional administrators provides instructions and guidance for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. The previous COVID-19 enforcement guidance document sent to the regional administrators back in April is being rescinded. In summary, the agency plans to proceed as follows.

  • In geographic areas where community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased, OSHA will return to the inspection planning policy that OSHA relied on prior to the start of the COVID-19 health crises, as outlined in the OSHA Field Operations Manual (FOM), CPL 02-00-164, Chapter 2, when prioritizing reported events for inspections, except that:
    • OSHA will continue to prioritize COVID-19 cases;
    • OSHA will utilize non-formal phone/fax investigations or rapid response investigations in circumstances where OSHA has historically performed such inspections (e.g., to address formal complaints) when necessary to assure effective and efficient use of resources to address COVID-19-related events; and
    • In all instances, the Area Director (AD) will ensure that CSHOs utilize the appropriate precautions and personal protective equipment (PPE) when performing inspections related to COVID-19.
  • In geographic areas experiencing either sustained elevated community transmission or a resurgence in community transmission of COVID-19, ADs will exercise their discretion, including consideration of available resources, to:
    • Continue prioritizing COVID-19 fatalities and imminent danger exposures for inspection. Particular attention for on-site inspections will be given to high-risk workplaces, such as hospitals and other healthcare providers treating patients with COVID-19, as well as workplaces, with high numbers of complaints or known COVID-19 cases.
      • Where resources are insufficient to allow for on-site inspections, the inspections for these types of reported events will be initiated remotely with an expectation that an on-site component will be performed if/when resources become available to do so.
      • Where limitations on resources are such that neither an on-site nor remote inspection is possible, OSHA will investigate these types of reported events using a rapid response investigation (RRI) to identify any hazards, provide abatement assistance, and confirm abatement.
      • OSHA will develop a program to conduct monitoring inspections from a randomized sampling of fatality or imminent danger cases where inspections were not conducted due to resource limitations.
    • Utilize non-formal phone/fax investigation instead of an on-site inspection in industries where doing so can address the relevant hazard(s); and
    • Ensure that CSHOs utilize the appropriate precautions and PPE to protect against potential exposures to COVID-19.

MEMORANDUM

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