Businesses that get inspected by OSHA under the revived Site-Specific Targeting Program or the COVID-19 national emphasis program can expect the compliance officer to take a long look at five things.
According to Certified Professional Environmental Auditor Jack Fearing, now’s the time to double-check that you’re:
- following (and updating accordingly) a written respiratory protection program sufficient for preventing COVID transmission, with site-specific procedures
- training workers to use respirators and other PPE, and providing medical evaluations before respirator fit-testing (Can you show documentation?)
- in compliance with the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause (Keep in mind the burden is on the agency to prove a condition or activity in the workplace presents a hazard)
- reporting serious injuries and fatalities in a timely manner to OSHA, and
- recording injuries and illnesses.
In the webinar “OSHA’s New COVID-19 Guidance: The Latest Compliance Requirements,” presented by Safety News Alert and sponsored by TSI Inc., Fearing gave a reminder that COVID-19 is officially a recordable illness that employers must document if it’s:
- a confirmed case
- work-related, and
- involves one or more recording criteria from OSHA Standard 1904.7.
Work-relatedness may seem like a gray area in the case of remote employees.
Fearing said if a remote worker becomes sick with COVID, it only needs to be recorded if transmission occurred while the person was performing work for compensation and was directly related to the performance of their job, rather than the home environment.
So for example, contracting the virus from general computer use at home doesn’t count.
What to do on Form 300
If someone from work is sent home with coronavirus symptoms and they’re officially diagnosed, on the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses under Column F — where you describe the injury/illness — listing “COVID-19” is sufficient.
“If you had a COVID-19 exposure that did not result in a fatality — and certainly we’d like to think that’s the majority of work-related COVID-19 cases — it almost always would result in days away from work … whether it’s for isolation purposes or whether it’s for medical purposes,” Fearing said. “And we know how extensive that can become. We have heard many stories … about friends and colleagues and others who have been in the hospital on ventilators and so forth.”
According to Fearing, under Column H, where employee days away from work is recorded, the maximum number of calendar days (not work days) away from work you can record is 180, even if the person is out longer than that.
Be sure to check “Respiratory Condition” under illness Column M (3).
Worst case scenario
If there’s a work-related COVID hospitalization, you have 24 hours to contact OSHA. The deadline for reporting a work-related COVID fatality is eight hours.
In case of those unfortunate events, have as much info as possible when contacting the agency and provide only what’s asked for. “When you report something, there’s a great deal of other information that needs to go with that … because they don’t just want to know that it happened. They want to know who, what, why, when, where — all the things you can imagine,” Fearing said.