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.
A group of U.S. Senators have joined the United Mine Workers of America call for MSHA action by introducing a new mine safety bill. The proposed Mine Worker Protection Act – which would require the agency to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) based on current CDC, NIOSH, and OSHA guidance within seven days – would be aimed at protecting miners from exposure to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Kentucky OSHA (KOSH) has been tasked with enforcing Governor Beshear’s Executive Orders (EO) regarding essential businesses and social distancing.
As the country begins to reopen, many mine operators are contemplating next steps for their own operations. One certainty is that the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will continue to enforce the provisions of the Mine Act and relevant regulatory requirements. On its most recent stakeholder call, MSHA very briefly mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledged there is no MSHA specific guidance forthcoming from the agency, and moved right into a discussion of the next target for rulemaking: Safety Improvement Technologies for Mobile Equipment at Surface Mines, and for Belt Conveyors at Surface and Underground Mines.