Recent OSHA & MIOSHA Actions Relating to COVID-19
Anthony M. Casaletta*
As the world fights to control the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, employers are forced to deal with new and unprecedent workplace health and safety issues. Employers are adjusting to mandatory employee temperature checks, implementing proper social distancing in employee work areas, and determining when a possible COVID-19 illness is recordable per OSHA Injury and Illness requirements. It can be a tall order at times, taxing both on the employer as well as the employee. OSHA and MIOSHA have also been forced to adjust their enforcement practices and priorities because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
OSHA’s Interim Guidelines
OSHA has published several Interim Enforcement memos and guidelines in the last month outlining modified enforcement operations during the Coronavirus pandemic. OSHA has issued several guidelines this past month including:
On April 13, 2020, OSHA issued their Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This document sheds some light on what OSHA, and likely MIOSHA’s, plan will be with regards enforcement activities during the pandemic.
While there is still a possibility of on-site, physical inspections, these will likely be reserved for fatalities, serious injuries involving hospitalizations, “high” hazard industries, and imminent danger situations. The remainder of OSHA/MIOSHA investigations will likely be conducted with complaint letters.
OSHA/MIOSHA Complaint Letter Investigation
An OSHA or MIOSHA complaint letter is a serious matter. An employer must investigate the alleged hazards and provide a written response with supporting documentation. An employer will be required to respond within 2-working days for COVID-19-related complaint items or 10-working days for complaint letters dealing with other types of alleged hazards. Either way, the clock is ticking, and an employer must take prompt action and properly respond to all alleged issues. Failing to respond to OSHA or MIOSHA may result in a full on-site inspection.
In addition to submitting a response to the Agency the employer must post a copy of the complaint letter and its response in an area where other employee notices are posted. The posted materials can be removed once OSHA or MIOSHA closes the case. It is also important to note that even though an employer satisfactorily responds to a MIOSHA complaint letter, MIOSHA could still perform an on-site inspection. MIOSHA selects a random sample of their complaint investigations for on-site inspections. MIOSHA does this to ensure that employers implement the measures the employer told MIOSHA about in the employer’s complaint response.
*Anthony Casaletta is an Associate Attorney with Douglas W. Crim PLC. Anthony holds a Master of Science degree in Industrial Hygiene from Wayne State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental, Safety and Occupational Health Management from the University of Findlay. Prior to joining Douglas W. Crim, PLC, Anthony was with MIOSHA for 18 years as an Industrial Hygienist, last holding the position of Health Supervisor with the Construction Safety and Health Division.