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OSHA Targets Manufacturing and Construction for COVID-19 Compliance

OSHA Targets Manufacturing and Construction for COVID-19 Compliance
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On March 12, OSHA published a compliance directive in which it announced the policies and procedures necessary to implement a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to address the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. This follows President Biden’s executive order from January 21st calling for increased regulatory attention on COVID-19 safety in the nation’s workplaces. The executive order also called for OSHA to issue revised guidelines and to “consider” developing an emergency temporary standard to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace by March 15. That date has come and gone, but the agency has not published an official standard or indicated if they still intend to make one.

The guidance instructs employers to do the following:

  • Complete a documented hazard assessment of COVID-19 in each workplace 
  • Develop and implement measures to limit spreading the virus
  • Develop and implement measures to separate infected or potentially infected workers from others
  • Develop and implement physical distancing measures
  • Install and maintain physical barriers when spacing cannot be maintained
  • Develop and implement face-covering measures
  • Develop and implement additional PPE necessary to protect employees
  • Improve ventilation systems
  • Provide supplies to maintain personal hygiene in the workplace
  • Develop and implement protocols 

Employers should document the completion of all the above program elements to prove these elements have actually been implemented. 

The compliance directive calls for increases in inspections of workplaces in which the spread of COVID-19 is most likely to occur. The compliance directive instructs the agency to focus primarily on various segments of the healthcare industry, but the directive also targets a larger number of manufacturers and the construction industry for inspections. A list of industries targeted for inspection under this compliance directive can be found in Appendix A and Appendix B of the compliance hyperlinked above. This is a high priority for the administration, and it is likely that inspections detailed in this compliance directive will start soon. 

Federal OSHA is compiling a master list of affected operations and sending them to every area office. These area offices can add more businesses to the list as deemed necessary by each Area Director. Once the list is generated, each area office will prepare a list of businesses to be inspected. At that point, compliance officers will visit each location and conduct in-depth inspections of COVID-19 exposure control plans, employee training, personal protective equipment use, and other elements of their COVID safety protocols. 

It is important to note these inspections are not announced. Affected businesses must allow the inspection to proceed or risk the compliance officer obtaining a warrant to complete the inspection. Businesses can ask the compliance officer to wait about an hour to prepare for the inspection or contact a safety professional to aid in the process. 

Understanding and exercising an employer’s rights during an inspection is one effective way of avoiding a painful and costly learning experience. Horton Safety Consultants has a team of professionals who understand the OSHA inspection process and how employers can minimize exposure to costly citations. Responding onsite to assist a client with an OSHA inspection is one of the most important services we offer. 

Horton is offering a How to Survive an OSHA Inspection webinar on April 14. Manufacturing and construction employers should attend this event to learn how to respond in the event OSHA knocks on your door to conduct a COVID-19 related inspection.  

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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