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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a finalizing rule to shorten the quarantine period for people exposed to COVID-19 from 14 days to seven to 10 days, according to an exclusive report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Henry Walke, the CDC’s coronavirus incident manager, indicated that a shortened quarantine period would include a requirement that the person receive a negative test before ending their quarantine period.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) just issued guidance and an accompanying one-page summary outlining which standards are most frequently cited during coronavirus-related inspections. OSHA based these documents on data gleaned from citations issued as the result of complaints, referrals, and fatalities related to COVID-19. According to OSHA, most of these citations were issued to industries such as hospitals and healthcare, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and meat/poultry processing plants. However, all employers should take note in order to avoid similar pitfalls.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces the Hazardous Materials Regulations on our nation’s highways, requiring anyone who offers, ships, or transports a hazardous material to include shipping papers that describe the hazardous materials. Shipping paper regulations are some of the most frequently violated hazardous materials regulations because they apply so broadly.

Cal/OSHA recently cited 11 employers in the food processing, meatpacking, health care, agriculture, and retail industries for not protecting employees from potential exposure to COVID-19. The state safety enforcement agency targeted these industries after several employee complaints and a spike in infection rates. It then initiated a number of strategic enforcement efforts to ensure all employers have adequate workplace safety plans to address COVID-19-specific hazards. 

Think of the typical office employee who commutes to their job by driving to and from work every day. Say this unfortunate employee gets into a motor vehicle accident on the way to or from work. Is this a compensable workers’ compensation claim? Typically, the answer is no because of the generally recognized “coming and going” rule. Under workers’ compensation law, employees who have a “fixed situs” workplace and are injured coming from work or going to work typically do not have a compensable workers’ compensation claim. Of course, there are many exceptions, but this general rule holds true in most cases.

Responding to several points of concern regarding the use of face coverings in the workplace, OSHA issued detailed policy guidance supporting their use. Adding to its COVID-19 FAQs, OSHA posted an answer to the question, “Does wearing a medical/surgical mask or cloth face covering cause unsafe oxygen levels or harmful carbon dioxide levels to the wearer?” OSHA’s answer attests to both the safety of wearing face coverings and that it does not, by itself implicate certain OSHA standards.

Due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure at the workplace, many states have enacted legislation to include the contraction of COVID-19 as a compensable workers’ compensation “occupational disease.” Just what is an “occupational disease,” how does it differ from other types of workplace injuries, and what do employers need to know about this development?

Fall protection in construction is one of the most cited OSHA standards across all industries, with fall protection training in construction being the eighth most-cited.  More importantly, falls constitute more than a third of construction deaths, dwarfing the next three causes combined. Outside of construction industries, falls remain a leading cause of citations and fatalities.  Falls are the most dangerous hazard for American workers, which means that fall protection is the most important safety consideration for employers.  Disappointingly, in late March this year the COVID-19 pandemic forced OSHA to postpone its Seventh Annual National Safety Stand-down to Prevent Falls.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently released a Final Rule on Hours of Service Drivers, revising its current regulations to provide drivers with more flexibility. By expanding existing exceptions and relaxing requirements, this new rule will make it easier for carriers and drivers to comply with the hours of service regulations. The FMCSA issued this rule, which will be effective on September 29, 2020, in a further attempt to aggressively promote efficiency while maintaining high safety standards.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced that OSHA area offices will begin to increase in-person inspections in some parts of the country as the agency released a revised response plan on how it will handle COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. The previous COVID-19 enforcement guidance sent to the area offices in April 2020, which had relaxed recordkeeping standards and otherwise eased off typical enforcement activity, has been rescinded.

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