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Federal - OSHA Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for COVID-19

On March 12, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for COVID-19, which provides new instructions and guidance about how it will handle COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports – summarized as follows:

  • OSHA will continue to implement the Department of Labor’s (DOL) COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to OSHA CSHOs during inspections.
  • Pursuant to the March 12, 2021, National Emphasis Program (NEP) for COVID-19, OSHA will prioritize COVID-19-related inspections involving deaths or multiple hospitalizations because of occupational exposures to COVID-19. The NEP also protects against worker retaliation.
  • OSHA will generally perform on-site workplace inspections:
    • OSHA identifies exposures to COVID-19 hazards, ensures that appropriate control measures are implemented, and addresses violations of OSHA standards and the General Duty Clause.
    • OSHA will sometimes use phone and video conferencing, instead of face-to-face employee interviews, to reduce potential exposures to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO). In-person interviews will be conducted when necessary and safe.
    • OSHA will minimize in-person meetings with employers and encourage employers to provide documents and other data electronically to CSHOs.
    • Area Directors (AD) will ensure that CSHOs are prepared and equipped with the appropriate precautions and personal protective equipment (PPE) when performing on-site inspections related to COVID-19 and throughout the pandemic.
    • All inspections will generally be done so that COVID-19-related citations, and their abatement, are done quickly.
  • If on-site inspections cannot safely be performed (for example, if the only available CSHO has reported a medical contraindication), the AD will approve remote-only inspections that may be conducted safely.

This plan revokes the administration’s May 19, 2020 plan, remains in effect until further notice, and is intended to be time-limited to the current COVID-19 public health crisis. OSHA’s webpage will have updates about this plan and more.