OSHA to Consider Employers’ Good Faith Efforts During Coronavirus Pandemic
Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“DOL”) issued new guidance to its compliance officers to evaluate an employer’s good faith efforts to comply with safety and health standards during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”), employers are legally obligated to provide their employers with a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and to comply with OSHA standards, rules, and regulations. However, the coronavirus pandemic has strained many businesses, which may not be operating at their normal capacity. To add, infection control measures may limit an employer’s ability to provide training, auditing, and other essential safety and industrial hygiene services. In light of this, the DOL’s new guidance is likely to give some employers a temporary reprieve during this public health crisis.
According to the DOL, compliance officers will evaluate if an employer:
- Explored all options to comply with applicable standards (e.g., use of virtual training or remote communication strategies);
- Implemented interim alternative protections, such as engineering or administrative controls; and
- Rescheduled required annual activity as soon as possible.
If an employer is unable to comply with OSHA requirements due to a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order by the local authorities, the employer should demonstrate a good faith attempt to comply with the applicable requirements as soon as they are able to safely and legally reopen.
The DOL’s guidance also states that compliance officers will take employers’ attempts to comply in good faith into “strong consideration” when determining whether a citation will be given. However, the DOL warns that it will still issue citations if an employer cannot demonstrate any efforts to comply.
To learn more about how your business can comply with OSHA and reduce workers’ risk of exposure to coronavirus, click this link.
The new DOL guidance took effect on April 16, 2020 and remains in effect indefinitely.