The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced levying citations on a business for purposely allowing COVID-19 exposure. In summary, a federal workplace health investigation found that an auto insurance company ignored coronavirus safety requirements. Subsequently, it permitted individuals displaying symptoms to work at the exact location where an employee previously died of COVID-19. Since the pandemic’s start, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued workplace safety guidance surrounding COVID-19. Additionally, in September 2021, OSHA published a revised anti-retaliation final rule.
Background of COVID-19 Exposure Incidents
Following a complaint of unsafe conditions and the death of an employee, OSHA initiated an investigation on April 21st, 2021. Accordingly, the agency found the employer liable for the following:
- a lack of safe social distancing among employees,
- failure to implement a health and safety plan, and
- allowing COVID-19 symptomatic workers to remain on site.
As a result of the initial investigation, the company now faces $23,406 in proposed penalties for improper handling of COVID-19. Markedly, the company has 15 business days from receipt of citations and penalties to:
- fully comply,
- request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or
- contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA’s Latest Guidance on Workplace COVID-19 Exposure
Earlier, on August 13th, 2021, OSHA issued updated guidance to help employers protect workers from the coronavirus. In summary, the latest guidance:
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks to protect unvaccinated workers;
- States that fully vaccinated workers who have close contacts with people with coronavirus should wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative coronavirus test at least 3-5 days after such contact; and
- Clarifies recommendations to protect unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in specific industries.
Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plans and Training
Earlier in 2021, OSHA released guidance on best practices to create a workplace COVID-19 prevention plan. Generally, implementing a workplace COVID-19 prevention plan is the most effective way to keep employees safe while mitigating the spread. The creation of a plan also helps in the efforts to stay in compliance with OSHA’s General Duty Clause. To assist employers, Personnel Concepts has developed an online, interactive Workplace COVID-19 Prevention Plan eLearning Module. Explicitly, employers at businesses of any size and industry can utilize this resource to determine appropriate COVID-19 control measures to implement in the workplace.
Lastly, an essential aspect of creating a COVID-19 Prevention Plan is ensuring that proper employee training on COVID prevention occurs. Given that, Personnel Concepts has also created the COVID-19 Prevention Training for Employees. This interactive training on COVID-19 infection control procedures helps employees understand their roles and responsibilities in keeping themselves and others safe and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic.