Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Apr 23, 2020

OSHA will exercise discretion in enforcement of COVID-19 safety

COVID-19Safety and Health 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has directed its compliance officers to consider the good faith efforts of employers who are unable to fully comply with federal safety requirements to conduct audits, reviews, training, or assessments due to COVID-19 (coronavirus). The agency provides several examples. In situations where you as an employer are unable to conduct annual training due to travel restrictions on the trainers, OSHA will look at whether you considered alternatives such as providing remote training. The agency will also consider any interim protective measures you put in place and whether you reschedule the training as soon as reasonably possible once it’s available again. Another example is the need to delay OSHA-required medical evaluations such as spirometry tests (to measure lung capacity) and audiometric tests (to measure hearing loss), due to recommendations against non-essential medical exams which put people in close proximity to each other. The agency will take into account your efforts to protect workers and to reschedule the tests when it’s appropriate to do so. OSHA’s enforcement memo took effect upon its publication on April 16, 2020, and will remain in effect until the current public health crisis abates.

Tips For Employers: We previously reported that OSHA had relaxed fit-testing protocols for respirators. OSHA’s enforcement memo shows that it’s taking a similar approach for audits, reviews, training, and assessments. OSHA has direct safety enforcement responsibilities in Idaho and Montana. In states such as Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington, which have their own state safety and health agencies, it will be up to the state agencies to decide whether to exercise a similar level of flexibility in enforcement. We anticipate they’ll do so, in recognition of the practical difficulties of compliance in the current environment. If you have any questions about how to address safety compliance issues in light of COVID-19, contact your Vigilant safety professional.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.