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.
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.
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.
Scott Prange, an attorney in our Seattle office, recently wrote the feature story in the November 2019 edition of the Hawaii Bar Journal entitled, “The Gig Economy and Occupational Safety and Health.”