With the coronavirus spreading, there are no doubt more immediate and urgent concerns at the moment. But at some point, when our attention turns back to “normal,” the safety of employees will remain front and center.
OSHA, in fact, has said as much, promising to crack down on employers with a history of violating federal safety standards.
The agency signaled its tougher stance in December when it reported that 2019 showed “a significant increase in the number of inspections” and promised to continue enforcement.
OSHA’s list of most-frequent violations: failing to use fall protection, lack of safety training, and failing to control hazardous chemicals and the related respiratory protections.
A repeat violation is when OSHA has previously cited the employer for a “substantially similar condition,” and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has affirmed the previous citation, according to OSHA.
In 2017, 5.5% of safety violations were considered repeats, about double the number compared to a few years back.
The agency began to get tougher on repeat offenders after an appeals court changed how far back OSHA could look in determining when a violation can be considered repeat. That timeline had been three years, but it was changed to five years.
Another big change allowed OSHA to count the number of violations issued to a company regardless of location. In other words, violations no longer must occur in the same location for the number of violations to climb.
As part of all of this, OSHA initiated its “National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping” last year after studies showed a wide gap between the number of injuries reported by employers vs. the totals drawn from other sources, such as hospital and workers’ compensation records.
There is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. Just click here to review them.