Increased complaints, a reduction of inspections and more remote inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic combined to increase safety risks for employees, according to a new report from the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
An ongoing OIG audit into the actions OSHA took during the pandemic reveals increased complaints, reduced inspections and an increase in remote inspections caused a reduction in employee protections at various worksites.
In its latest semiannual report to Congress, the OIG states that OSHA’s efforts to protect the health and safety of inspectors during the pandemic led to fewer inspections in general and an increased number of remote inspections when compared with a similar period during 2019.
Compared with 2019 numbers, OSHA received 15% more complaints in 2020, but performed 50% fewer inspections resulting in the agency’s failure to provide an adequate level of protection for many workers.
Throughout the pandemic, federal OSHA issued 295 violations for 176 COVID-19-related inspections, while state plan agencies issued 1,679 violations for 756 COVID-19-related inspections.
The OIG report points to the lack of an enforceable emergency temporary standard (ETS) as another failure to adequately protect employees at worksites across the U.S.
OSHA produced a COVID-19 ETS April 26, which is currently under review at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.