It’s an understatement to say 2020 is an odd year for businesses and workers worldwide. Workplaces already have daily challenges to hurdle, and throwing in the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) makes for even more. Some top concerns have been how to navigate the wave of changes to make workplaces safe, including effective sanitizing for the well-being of workers and the public. However, it’s been a struggle for many, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working with businesses putting in the effort—and clamping down on those who are not. With thorough planning and simple adjustments, workplaces can fulfill COVID-19 safety requirements, general safety, 5S methods for efficiency, and compliance.
COVID-19 Violation Details
OSHA workplace inspections this year took a turn to focus on COVID-19. While the federal agency’s goal was to assist businesses, there were many blatantly not following protocol as directed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. OSHA says that over the past nine months, it investigated 11,876 whistleblower complaints and issued citations arising from 255 inspections for violations relating to coronavirus, with penalties totaling more than $3 million.
The top OSHA citations were for failing to properly use and implement respiratory protection, personal protective equipment, recording and reporting injuries and illnesses, and general duty OSHA requirements.
OSHA’s not the bad guy out to get businesses. It’s done its fair share of providing guidance, training, and assistance to employers to improve working conditions through the pandemic and beyond.
“OSHA remains committed to strong enforcement, compliance assistance, and training programs to accomplish our mission of safety and health for every worker,” said OSHA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt. “Despite the pandemic-related challenges that impacted the nation, OSHA staff worked tirelessly to help ensure every worker was safe on the job. I am proud of the work the agency accomplished for America’s workers during this unprecedented year.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been busy trying to help workplaces with COVID-19 precautions and improving safety overall. The agency reports that it conducted 21,674 inspections in response to worker complaints, injuries and fatalities, and referrals impacted by the coronavirus. “OSHA received 20,541 complaints—including 9,189 coronavirus-related complaints—and investigated every complaint,” the agency said in a press release. OSHA also was able to conduct its annual safety campaigns virtually and create free online courses, such as Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 Training Requirements.
Hazard Prevention Tips
Workplaces can step up to tackle the top OSHA violations by using simple tools that are easy to install and cost-effective. Start by ensuring to establish, implement, and update written respiratory protection programs with required worksite-specific procedures. Use signs at eye-level to remind workers to wear N95 masks and other PPE before entering a building or specific work area. Keep PPE clean, organized, and in an area easily accessible by the workers who need it. Mark walking and working areas and remind workers to stay at least six feet apart by using floor marking and floor signs.
Whether preventing the spread of COVID-19 or in pursuit of a stellar safety program, routine training is necessary in any workplace. Safety managers can re-evaluate safety protocol and update plans, but those plans fall flat when the rest of the workforce is not on the same page. Signs, labels, and floor marking can alert employees to the hazards present in the workplaces. They are simple and cost-effective reminder tools to help keep everyone safe.
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