U.S. Department of Labor Issues Temporary Enforcement Guidance for Respirator Fit-Testing in Healthcare during COVID-19 Outbreak

WASHINGTON, DC – Following President Donald J. Trump’s memorandum on the availability of respirators during the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new temporary guidance regarding the enforcement of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard. This guidance is aimed at ensuring healthcare workers have full access to needed N95 respiratory protection in light of anticipated shortages.

“The safety and health of Americans are top priorities for the President. That’s why the Administration is taking this action to protect America’s healthcare workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “Today’s guidance ensures that healthcare workers have the resources they need to stay safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.”

“America’s healthcare workers need appropriate respiratory protection as they help combat the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Today’s guidance outlines commonsense measures that will keep personal respiratory devices available for our country’s healthcare workers.”

OSHA recommends that employers supply healthcare personnel who provide direct care to patients with known or suspected coronavirus with other respirators that provide equal or higher protection, such as N99 or N100 filtering facepieces, reusable elastomeric respirators with appropriate filters or cartridges, or powered air purifying respirators.

This temporary enforcement guidance recommends that healthcare employers change from a quantitative fit testing method to a qualitative testing method to preserve integrity of N95 respirators. Additionally, OSHA field offices have the discretion to not cite an employer for violations of the annual fit testing requirement as long as employers:

  • Make a good faith effort to comply with the respiratory protection standard;
  • Use only NIOSH-certified respirators;
  • Implement strategies recommended by OSHA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for optimizing and prioritizing N95 respirators;
  • Perform initial fit tests for each healthcare employee with the same model, style, and size respirator that the employee will be required to wear for protection from coronavirus;
  • Tell employees that the employer is temporarily suspending the annual fit testing of N95 respirators to preserve the supply for use in situations where they are required to be worn;
  • Explain to employees the importance of conducting a fit check after putting on the respirator to make sure they are getting an adequate seal;
  • Conduct a fit test if they observe visual changes in an employee’s physical condition that could affect respirator fit; and
  • Remind employees to notify management if the integrity or fit of their N95 respirator is compromised.

The temporary enforcement guidance is in effect beginning March 14, 2020, and will remain in effect until further notice.

For further information about COVID-19, please visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Coronavirus Protection

A new OSHA alert and guidance document on COVID-19 provide general practices to help prevent worker exposure to corona virus.

Illustration of a coronavirus

“Protecting the health and safety of America’s workforce is a key component of this Administration’s comprehensive approach to combating the corona virus,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “This guidance outlines practical ways that employers and workers can address potential health risks from the corona virus in their workplaces.”

This guidance is part of the Department of Labor’s ongoing efforts to educate the workers and employers about the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • In addition to the guidance, OSHA recently launched a COVID-19 webpage that provides infection prevention information specifically for workers and employers, and is actively reviewing and responding to any complaints regarding workplace protection from novel corona virus, as well as conducting outreach activities.
  • The Wage and Hour Division is providing information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19, including effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has also published guidance for federal employees and outlines Federal Employees’ Compensation Act coverage as it relates to the novel corona virus.

For further information about Corona virus, please visit the HHS’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

 

 

OSHA final rule corrects errors in 27 standards and regulations

Washington — OSHA has issued technical corrections and amendments to 27 standards and regulations to address “minor misprints, omissions, outdated references, and tabular and graphic inaccuracies.”

According to a final rule published in the Feb. 18 Federal Register, the corrections are to 29 CFR 1904 (recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses), 1910 (general industry), 1915 and 1918 (maritime), and 1926 (construction).

None of the revisions expands employer obligations or imposes new costs, a Feb. 14 press release from OSHA states.

The changes are effective immediately.

OSHA celebrates 50th anniversary of OSH Act

nixon-signs.png
President Richard Nixon signs the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

Washington — To mark the 50th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA has launched a webpage highlighting the agency’s work over the decades.

On Dec. 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the legislation and paved the way for OSHA’s creation. In that time, workplace fatalities have decreased to about 14 a day in 2018 from around 38 a day in 1970, and the annual injury and illness rate among private-industry employees declined to 2.8 per 100 workers in 2018 from 10.9 in 1972.

“OSHA has helped transform America’s workplaces by dramatically reducing workplace fatalities and significantly decreasing the worker injury rate,” acting administrator Loren Sweatt says in a video posted on the webpage. “Even with these dramatic improvements to worker safety, our work is not done. As we celebrate 50 years of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, I hope you will join us in making a renewed commitment to keeping workers safe and healthy. It’s every worker’s right.”

The agency is expected to announce upcoming events honoring the anniversary.

Corrections to Standards

OSHA issued corrects to General Industry Standards 1910 – Subpart D Walking-Working Surfaces, Personal Protective Equipment, and Special Industries standards, Including:

Ladders 1910.23(d)(4) requires employers to ensure that the side rails of through or side-step ladders extend at least 42 inches above the top of the access level or landing platform served by the ladder. Prior to the correction 42 inches was listed as an exact measurement

Stairways 1910.25(a) clarifying that all articulated stairs used in general industry, not just those serving floating roof tanks, remain excluded from coverage by § 1910.25. Prior to the correction, only floating roof tank stairways were excluded from this standard

Personal Fall Arrest Systems 1910.140(c)(8) requires snaphooks, carabiners, and D-rings (and other hardware) to be proof tested to 3,600 pounds (ANSI/ASSE Z359.12-2009, section 3.1.1.6) and requires the gate of snaphooks and carabiners to be capable of withstanding a minimum load of 3,600 pounds without the gate separating from the nose of the snaphook or carabiner body by more than 0.125 inches (ANSI/ASSE Z359.12-2009, section 3.1.1.3).  Prior to the correction, the latter part of the requirement was out of alignment with the ANSI standard.

Visit the Federal Register for more details on the changes.

OSHA determined that this rulemaking is not subject to the procedures for public notice and comment specified in Section 4 of the Administrative Procedures Act (5 U.S.C. 553), Section 6(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 655(b)), and 29 CFR 1911.5. This rulemaking only corrects typographical, formatting, and clerical errors, and provides more information about the requirements of some provisions. As it does not affect or change any existing rights or obligations, no stakeholder is likely to object to these corrections. Therefore, the agency finds good cause that public notice and comment are unnecessary within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B), 29 U.S.C. 655(b), and 29 CFR 1911.5.

To ensure your team is up to date on OSHA standards and industry best practices, sign up for training at McCraren Compliance today. Remember if you need a class you don’t see listed, just ask us.

 

 

Statement from OSHA Regarding Occupational Fatalities in 2018

OSHA reports Suicide at work increased 11% in 2018 and unintentional overdoses at working increased 11% according to the US Bureaus of Labor statistics. To help combat these serious issues affecting our workers, families, companies and the greater society, OSHA has a new webpage with free and confidential resources to help identify the warning signs of suicide and to help users know who and how to call for help.

OSHA is also working with National Safety Council on the release of a toolkit to help employers address opioid abuse in their workplaces and support workers in recovery. To see the full release from OSHA click here

McCraren Compliance offers Suicide Prevention in Workplace training through Working Minds. Email info@mccrarencompliance.com to find out more.