On May 19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued their latest guidance on recording cases of COVID-19 in the workplace and interim enforcement response plan. The enforcement memos will become effective on May 26, 2020 and rescinds both previously issued memos on each topic. The agency states that the May 19 memos were issued in response to the reopening of economies throughout the country and because confirmed cases of COVID-19 have now been found among workers in industries other than healthcare, emergency response, and correctional institutions, which were the focus of the earlier memos. In general, the newly released guidance will not significantly impact the construction industry.
Under the new recordkeeping policy, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. However, the agency continues to acknowledge that in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. Regarding determining the recordability of a confirmed case, OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must put forth an effort, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a case of coronavirus is work-related. As AGC has been encouraging members from the beginning of the pandemic, this will entail conducting and documenting your investigation.
Under the new interim enforcement response plan, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. While construction has been deemed an essential business in most parts of the country, the new enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen. According to OSHA’s risk matrix, the risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces. Construction will generally fall into the lower risk category with some operations or tasks falling into the medium risk category. Industry sectors having high and very high exposure risk jobs, such as hospitals, emergency medical centers, and emergency response facilities, will frequently be the focus of any inspection activities in response to COVID-19-related complaints/referrals and employer-reported illnesses.