Lessons Learned the Hard Way: OSHA’s Most Common COVID-19 Citations

OSHA Violations and Solutions

Although there is no federal standard related to COVID in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been conducting COVID-19-related inspections and has frequently cited for violating certain standards, primarily the Respiratory Protection Standard and the Personal Protection Equipment standard.

On Nov. 20, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it has issued 232 citations arising from inspections for violations relating to coronavirus, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $3,148,452.

In an article posted to the Fisher Phillips Workplace Safety and Health Blog, attorney Nicholas S. Hulse warns that a guidance recently issued by the agency “makes it clear that the most commonly cited standards related to COVID-19 involve respiratory protection and personal protective equipment (PPE). Based on the data provided by OSHA, it is evident that many employers are issuing respirators to employees without the required medical evaluation and without establishing and implementing a written respiratory protection program.” 

In an article posted to the Fisher Phillips Workplace Safety and Health Blog, attorney Nicholas S. Hulse warns that a guidance recently issued by the agency “makes it clear that the most commonly cited standards related to COVID-19 involve respiratory protection and personal protective equipment (PPE). Based on the data provided by OSHA, it is evident that many employers are issuing respirators to employees without the required medical evaluation and without establishing and implementing a written respiratory protection program.” 

The following are examples of requirements that employers have most frequently failed to follow:

  • Provide a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator.
  • Perform an appropriate fit test for workers using tight fitting respirators.
  • Assess the workplace to determine if COVID-19 hazards are present, or likely to be present, which will require the use of a respirator and/or other personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Establish, implement, and update a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures.
  • Provide an appropriate respirator and/or other PPE to each employee when necessary to protect the health of the employees (ensuring the respirator and/or PPE used is the correct type and size).
  • Train workers to safely use respirators and/or other PPE in the workplace and retrain workers about changes in the workplace that might make previous training obsolete.
  • Store respirators and other PPE properly in a way to protect them from damage, contamination and, where applicable, deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve.
  • For any fatality that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident, report the fatality to OSHA within eight hours of finding out about it.
  • Keep required records of work-related fatalities, injuries and illness.

Employers also are encouraged to reach out to OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program, which offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small- and medium-sized businesses.


OSHA Announces $2.5 Million in Coronavirus Violations


Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic through Oct. 29, OSHA has issued citations arising from 179 inspections for violations relating to coronavirus, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $2,496,768.

OSHA inspections have resulted in the agency citing employers for violations, including failures to:


What Can Employers Do To Avoid OSHA Enforcement Actions?


Hulse suggests employers review the guidance issued by OSHA to avoid receiving similar citations. “If you have not already done so, you should assess your workplace to determine if additional PPE is required to protect against COVID-19 related hazards,” he said, adding that if any additional PPE is required, you must train your employees on proper use.

If you are requiring employees to wear a face covering that meets the definition of a respirator, you should ensure that you have completed proper medical evaluations and have properly trained your employees, he said.

Intelex offers a variety of resources aimed at helping employers maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Visit our Return to Work Solutions page for more information about technology and tools to help manage the return to work and reimagining the workplace post-pandemic.


States Are Enacting Emergency COVID-19 Regulations


Lacking a federal emergency regulation, several states have enacted emergency rules to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Michigan, Virginia and Oregon all have announced emergency or temporary rules, while others have announced executive orders released by governors.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) within the Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) was the first state OSHA programs to promulgate rules which clarify the safety requirements employers must follow to protect their employees from COVID-19. today signed her concurrence of the need for a comprehensive set of Emergency Rules that will help protect Michigan workers, businesses, customers and communities from the spread of COVID-19.  

“While most Michigan job providers are doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, these rules provide them with clarity regarding the necessary requirements to keep their workplaces safe and their employees healthy,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “I will continue to work around the clock with my partners in labor and business to ensure protections for every Michigan worker.”  

Under the Michigan Emergency Rules, businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of personal protection equipment (PPE), steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. The rules implement workplace safeguards for all Michigan businesses and specific requirements for industries, including anufacturing, construction, retail, health care, exercise facilities, restaurants and bars.  

The rules establish workplace safety requirements and employers should coordinate these requirements with the Emergency Order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and childcare facilities, placing capacity limitations on stores, bars and other public venues and providing safer workplaces. 

“As we reengage our economy, the Governor’s actions reiterate the importance to keep workplaces safe for employees and protect customers from COVID-19 transmission,” said COVID-19 Workplace Safety Director Sean Egan. “These rules will formalize the workplace safety guidelines previously in place, and are necessary to save lives. We will continue to educate workers and employers on requirements for businesses to get open and stay open.”  

Since March 2020, employers have reported 30 worker deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan and 127 in-patient hospitalizations potentially linked to workplace exposure. MIOSHA has received over 3,800 complaints from employees alleging uncontrolled COVID-19 hazards in the workplace and 263 referrals from local government, including local health departments, indicating that businesses were not taking all the necessary measures to protect their employees from infection. 

A set of online resources at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety provides businesses with the guidelines they and their employees must follow.

To register for the State of COVID-19 Response and Future World of Work Summit hosted by the NSC, please click here.

This entry was posted in Health & Safety Management and tagged , by Sandy Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the Global EHSQ Content Lead for Intelex Technologies. Formerly the Content Director for EHS Today, she has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. Her work as a journalist and editor has been recognized with national and international awards. She has been interviewed about occupational safety and health for national business publications, documentaries and television programs; has served as a panelist on roundtables; and has provided the keynote address for occupational safety and health conferences.

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