OSHA announces public meeting on whistleblower program

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Photo: mipan/iStock/Thinkstock

Washington — OSHA has scheduled a public meeting for May 12 to gather information on key issues facing its Whistleblower Protection Program.

According to a notice published in the March 13 Federal Register, the meeting is set for 1 p.m. Eastern at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

To better understand how it can improve the program, OSHA is interested in input regarding:

  • How the agency can deliver better customer service.
  • The kind of assistance the agency can provide to help explain the whistleblower laws it enforces.
  • Where the agency’s outreach efforts should be targeted.

The deadline to register is April 28. Comments are due May 5.

OSHA enforces whistleblower protections under 23 statutes.

Safe + Sound Week set for Aug. 10-16

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — OSHA, NIOSH and a number of safety organizations – including the National Safety Council – are teaming up for the fourth annual Safe + Sound Week, scheduled for Aug. 10-16.

The nationwide initiative is aimed at promoting awareness and understanding of workplace safety and health programs. Participating agencies and organizations are encouraging employers to host events highlighting the importance of programs that focus on management leadership, worker participation, and finding and fixing workplace hazards.

“Successful safety and health programs can proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness, improving sustainability and the bottom line,” OSHA states.

“Participating in Safe + Sound Week can help get your program started, energize an existing one or provide a chance to recognize your safety successes.”

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about 2.8 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported among private-sector U.S. employees in 2018. Fatal workplace injuries totaled 5,250 in 2018 – the most since 2007.

OSHA postpones National Safety Stand-Down

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — OSHA has postponed the seventh annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event – initially slated for May 4-8 – is expected to be rescheduled for this summer, the agency states in a March 27 press release.

Falls are the No. 1 cause of fatal workplace injuries among construction workers. OSHA “encourages employers to remain vigilant and to use all available resources to enhance worker safety.”

DOL requests nominations for OSHA advisory committee

Washington — The Department of Labor is looking to fill six seats on OSHA’s National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.

The 12-member committee advises, consults with and makes recommendations to the secretaries of labor and health and human services on matters relating to workplace safety and health. All members are appointed by the secretary of labor to represent labor, management, safety and health professionals, and the public.

According to a notice published in the Feb. 26 Federal Register, half of the committee members’ two-year terms are set to expire July 31. Nominations for each represented group are being accepted, with two public representative seats needed to be filled.

Nomination deadline is April 27.

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.