Is OSHA knocking at your door more often? Here’s why.


The U.S. Department of Labor’s workplace safety office is stepping up its in-person inspections in areas where COVID-19 infections have decreased. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new enforcement instructions directing its state and regional offices to return to the pre-COVID-19 playbook after ceasing most in-person inspections at the height of the pandemic in previous months. 

OSHA is also requiring most employers to:

  • disclose when workers contract COVID-19;
  • track workplace COVID-19 cases;
  • record workplace COVID-19 cases.

The tracking and recording requirements replace an earlier policy from April 10, 2020, that excused all but health care, corrections and first response employers from that duty. Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if:

  • the case is confirmed as a COVID-19 illness;
  • it is work-related; and,
  • it involves one or more of the general recording criteria, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work. 

Additionally, keeping the new enforcement instructions focused on high-risk employers, regional officials are now given discretion over how to investigate complaints. Officials may decide whether to investigate the complaint remotely or in-person. For complaints such as lack of personal protective equipment, if resources are insufficient for an in-person inspection of a fatality or imminent danger event, investigators are permitted to begin the investigation remotely and move to an in-person investigation only if needed. 

Employers should note that the new enforcement instructions do not change existing regulations which exclude employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low-hazard industries from recording obligations. These employers still need only to report work-related COVID-19 cases that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.

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