The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released a list of its most common Covid-19 citations in construction and other industries, in order “to help employers understand which OSHA standards have been cited most frequently during COVID-19 related inspections.” The document was based on data OSHA maintains regarding its citations and inspections, which it states it initiated after complaints, referrals, or fatalities in various industries, including: “hospitals and healthcare, nursing homes and long term care settings, and meat/poultry processing facilities.”
According to OSHA’s data, the most common citations dealt with respiratory protection. Workplaces were cited for failing to provide a medical evaluation before a worker used or was fit-tested for a respirator; omitting information in workers’ medical evaluations; failing to perform appropriate fit tests; failing to ensure fit tests whenever a different respirator face piece was use; and failing to administer a fit test using a standard protocol.
OSHA’s guide to properly wearing a respirator lays out the following seven steps: wash your hands, inspect the respirator, put it on, adjust it, wear it, remove it, and dispose of it. While adjusting the respirator, users should place both hands over it, then inhale and exhale; if they can feel air coming out of their nose or edges, they should readjust the nose-piece or the straps, respectively. “If you reuse your respirator,” the document advises, “wear gloves when inspecting and putting on the respirator. Avoid touching your face (including your eyes, nose, and mouth) during the process.”
OSHA’s respiratory protection citation category also includes citations for training and information. Employers were cited for failing to provide effective training; failing to ensure workers could demonstrate knowledge of why respirators are necessary, how improper fit can reduce protection, the limitations of respirators, how to inspect respirators, how to maintained store respirators, and how to recognize medical symptoms that may counter-indicate respirator use; and failing to retrain employees when previous trainings became obsolete. In other instances, employers were cited for failing to store respirators in a manner that protected them from damage and contamination.
The second most citation category dealt with recording and reporting of workplace injury and illness. Employers were cited for failing to report a workplace incident-related fatality to OSHA within eight hours, and for failing to maintain records of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. According to OSHA’s Covid-19 FAQ, workplaces are required to report in-patient Covid-19 hospitalizations within 24 hours of a workplace COVID-19 exposure. “in order to be reportable, an in-patient hospitalization due to COVID-19 must occur within 24 hours of an exposure to SARS-CoV-2 at work,” the guideline states. “If an employer learns that an employee was in-patient hospitalized within 24 hours of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the in-patient hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within 24 hours of that determination.” Employers are similarly required to report Covid-19 fatalities resulting from workplace exposures within 30 days of the incident.
More information on OSHA’s Covid-19 citations is available here.