COVID-19 AND THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

Here's How You Can Protect Your Business
Phone

Preparing Your Worksite for a Potential OSHA COVID-19 Inspection

When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the United States in 2020, OSHA issued guidelines for managing workplaces and keeping employees safe from the virus. You likely referred to these guidelines often as you attempted to keep your worksite free from hazards. They helped you identify risk levels in your workplace settings and determine the appropriate control measures to implement. Although these guidelines were not legal requirements, they provided you with advice for navigating the pandemic.

Months later, your company is probably still feeling the effects of the coronavirus. And if you are expecting a COVID-19 investigation from OSHA in the near future, you can benefit from reviewing the guidelines again as you prepare your worksite.

OSHA Inspections in the Age of COVID-19

Often, an employee complaint or an onsite accident will prompt an OSHA inspection, but your worksite can be the subject of investigation even without an incident. So you must know what to expect if OSHA chooses to perform a COVID-19 inspection at your site.

In an effort to protect its certified safety and health officials (CSHOs), OSHA has been using electronic communications as much as possible during the inspection process. CSHOs can conduct inspections and interview witnesses virtually, and they can request documents electronically. So a COVID-19 inspection may run a little differently than a general review did over a year ago.

Opening Conference and Document Requests

The CSHO will likely hold the opening conference virtually. At this time, the CSHO will meet with the site manager and other supervisory employees. The CSHO will state the nature of the inspection, what records require review, and what interviews are necessary. If there was a complaint, the CSHO should give you a copy.

The CHSO will probably request some or all of the following documents:

  • Written COVID-9 safety processes and procedures, including cleaning schedules.
  • Safety information about any cleaning chemicals and other materials used.
  • Copies of your employee manuals and safety manuals, which should detail employee safety training, including coronavirus-specific issues such as social distancing, handwashing, wearing masks over mouths and noses, and staying home when sick.
  • Administrative procedures for managing exposure to COVID-19, including risk assessments.
  • Evidence of safety accommodations in workspaces and common areas, including photos and video.
  • A comprehensive inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) that you have provided your employees, including its distribution and training for using it.
  • Records of COVID-19 testing for your employees.
  • Records of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among your employees.
  • Records of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among clients, customers, vendors, or visitors.
  • Records and reports of worksite accidents and injuries.

It is crucial that all your recordkeeping is thorough and you regularly update your manuals and safety training.

COVID-19 Safety Standards

In addition to reviewing your worksite for general safety hazards, the CSHO will try to determine if you or your employees have committed violations related to COVID-19. The most common citations issued by OSHA in recent months include the use of respirators and other PPE.

The CSHO will review if you have a written and established process for equipping your workers with respirators and ensuring they are fit-tested. The inspector will determine what workplace hazards warrant the use of PPE and if you have trained all employees in using PPE. The CSHO will review all your documents to conclude if you have recorded and reported accidents as necessary.

During the inspection, the CSHO will also review the workspace for general COVID-19 safety guidelines, including the practice of social distancing and the construction of barriers between work areas.

Best Strategies for Success

Reliable recordkeeping is one of the best strategies for ensuring a smooth OSHA investigation. If the CSHO can see that you have documented processes, training, injuries, and accidents, that will go a long way in supporting your commitment to employee safety. Make sure every crew member has a copy of your employee and safety manuals, and place copies on every site and in every company vehicle. This consistency will benefit you when questions arise, and it may help you avoid a citation or fine.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.

Months later, your company is probably still feeling the effects of the coronavirus. And if you are expecting a COVID-19 investigation from OSHA in the near future, you can benefit from reviewing the guidelines again as you prepare your worksite.

OSHA Inspections in the Age of COVID-19

Often, an employee complaint or an onsite accident will prompt an OSHA inspection, but your worksite can be the subject of investigation even without an incident. So you must know what to expect if OSHA chooses to perform a COVID-19 inspection at your site.

In an effort to protect its certified safety and health officials (CSHOs), OSHA has been using electronic communications as much as possible during the inspection process. CSHOs can conduct inspections and interview witnesses virtually, and they can request documents electronically. So a COVID-19 inspection may run a little differently than a general review did over a year ago.

Opening Conference and Document Requests

The CSHO will likely hold the opening conference virtually. At this time, the CSHO will meet with the site manager and other supervisory employees. The CSHO will state the nature of the inspection, what records require review, and what interviews are necessary. If there was a complaint, the CSHO should give you a copy.

The CHSO will probably request some or all of the following documents:

  • Written COVID-9 safety processes and procedures, including cleaning schedules .
  • Safety information about any cleaning chemicals and other materials used.
  • Copies of your employee manuals and safety manuals, which should detail employee safety training, including coronavirus-specific issues such as social distancing, handwashing, wearing masks over mouths and noses, and staying home when sick.
  • Administrative procedures for managing exposure to COVID-19, including risk assessments.
  • Evidence of safety accommodations in workspaces and common areas, to include photos and video.
  • A comprehensive inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) that you have provided your employees, including its distribution and training for using it .
  • Records of COVID-19 testing for your employees.
  • Records of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among your employees.
  • Records of confirmed cases of COVID-19 among clients, customers, vendors, or visitors.
  • Records and reports of worksite accidents and injuries.

It is crucial that all your recordkeeping is thorough and you regularly update your manuals and safety training.

COVID-19 Safety Standards

In addition to reviewing your worksite for general safety hazards, the CSHO will try to determine if you or your employees have committed violations related to COVID-19. The most common citations issued by OSHA in recent months include the use of respirators and other PPE.

The CSHO will review if you have a written and established process for equipping your workers with respirators and ensuring they are fit-tested. The inspector will determine what workplace hazards warrant the use of PPE and if you have trained all employees in using PPE. The CSHO will review all your documents to conclude if you have recorded and reported accidents as necessary.

During the inspection, the CSHO will also review the workspace for general COVID-19 safety guidelines, including the practice of social distancing and the construction of barriers between work areas.

Best Strategies for Success

Reliable recordkeeping is one of the best strategies for ensuring a smooth OSHA investigation. If the CSHO can see that you have documented processes, training, injuries, and accidents, that will go a long way in supporting your commitment to employee safety. Make sure every crew member has a copy of your employee and safety manuals, and place copies on every site and in every company vehicle. This consistency will benefit you when questions arise, and it may help you avoid a citation or fine.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.