OSHA continues to highlight the importance of COVID-19 workplace safety training in recently updated enforcement guidance.
OSHA intends to focus COVID-19 enforcement efforts on all industries (non-healthcare) to protect both vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. As promised, the Biden Administration has ramped up OSHA enforcement using the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause to enforce COVID-19 worker protections. OSHA has issued more than 3x as many General Duty Clause violations as the previous administration.
On January 29, 2021, OSHA issued revised COVID-19 workplace guidance to assist employers in complying with their obligations under the General Duty Clause to provide a safe and healthy workplace. OSHA’s COVID-19 workplace guidance advises employers to “train workers” on various safe work practices, including new scientific evidence on how the virus spreads, vaccinations, increased ventilation, masks, and social distancing.
To determine compliance with the Act, OSHA’s updated enforcement guidance instructs investigators to review the employer’s COVID-19 plan and related documents, including “employee training records . . . related to COVID-19 exposure prevention.”
OSHA’s updated enforcement guidance also includes a Sample Hazard Alert Letter for a COVID-19 Inspection, which states that:
Training workers about the importance of COVID-19 controls, and their roles in implementing those controls, is one of the best ways to ensure their effective and consistent implementation.
For example, in California, the state’s occupational safety and health agency (Cal/OSHA) adopted COVID-19 Prevention Standards requiring employers to provide COVID-19 training to all workers, regardless of vaccination status, on a number of workplace safety topics.
Proper face mask use also continues to be a key workplace safety measure even for fully vaccinated workers. Los Angeles County recently reinstated an indoor mask mandate for both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases resulting from the delta variant.
Many workers remain unvaccinated, and the highly contagious delta variant has become the dominant strain in the U.S. Investing in COVID-19 safe workplace training now can help prevent potential compliance issues from occurring later.