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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

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.

In light of the strain that COVID-19 has put on many employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) just released an Enforcement Memo that allows Area Offices to assess an employer’s good faith efforts to comply with certain standards. OSHA has recognized that business closures, restrictions on travel, facility visitor prohibitions, and stay-at-home orders limit the availability of employees and other resources that employers may normally use to provide training, auditing, inspections, testing, and other safety services. 

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration just issued an interim enforcement response plan to OSHA area offices on how to handle COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. And the plan means that healthcare and emergency response employers need to be more vigilant than ever when it comes to workplace safety.

Many essential businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic may be utilizing temporary workers and contractors. Employers using such workers must keep in mind their responsibilities for notifying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of reportable injuries and illnesses involving these non-employee workers to OSHA. Under some circumstances, you may have to report an injury of a non-employee.

Fear of the coronavirus and flu may cause anxiety among employees who frequently encounter other people, which may lead them to request permission to wear – or to simply wear without permission – a medical mask or respirator. While this may address the anxieties of employees, it could lead to other problems, such as causing customers or coworkers to panic. To avoid these issues, some employers in industries such as retail have prohibited their employees from wearing medical masks or respirators, like the department store in London that recently barred staff from wearing masks due to the “risk of spreading further anxiety.”

Employers have long operated under the premise that the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act provides the exclusive remedy for workers injured on the job. Indeed, section 97.-10.1 of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act states that employers in compliance with the Act are protected from all other claims and remedies that could be brought by employees, dependents, next of kin, or representatives in the event of a workplace injury or death.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an inspection of your facility.  OSHA issues a serious citation to your company for a machine guarding violation, despite the fact the OSHA investigator did not actually observe a plausible infraction.  Your company would like to contest the citation because it was not justified.  However, your company is not sure if it can afford to pay an attorney to fight the citation.  There may be relief. The Equal Access to Justice Act may provide your company with an avenue for having the government foot the bill for your company challenging the citation.

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