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Coverage by the Occupational Safety and Health Act

The OSH Act covers most private sector employers and their workers, in addition to some public sector employers and workers in the 50 states and certain territories and jurisdictions under federal authority. OSHA covers most private sector employers and their workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state program. Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by Federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in those states that have an OSHA-approved state program. Several additional states/territories have OSHA-approved plans that cover public sector workers only. State-run health and safety programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program. To find the contact information for the OSHA Federal or State Program office nearest you, see the Regional and Area Offices map.

Those not covered by the OSH Act include: self-employed workers, immediate family members of farm employers, and workers whose hazards are regulated by another federal agency (for example, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Energy, or Coast Guard).

Key employer responsibilities under the OSH Act:

·       Provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and comply with standards, rules and regulations issued under the OSH Act.

·       Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicable OSHA standards.

·       Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain this equipment.

·       Use color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards.

·       Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.

·       Employers must provide safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.

·       Employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must develop and implement a written hazard communication program and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and proper precautions (and a copy of safety data sheets must be readily available). See the OSHA page on Hazard Communication.

·       Provide medical examinations and training when required by OSHA standards.

·       Post, at a prominent location within the workplace, the OSHA poster (or the state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.

·       Report to the nearest OSHA office all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, all amputations and all losses of an eye within 24 hours. Call our toll-free number: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); TTY 1-877-889-5627. [Employers under federal OSHA’s jurisdiction were required to begin reporting by Jan. 1, 2015. Establishments in a state with a state-run OSHA program should contact their state plan for the implementation date].

·       Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. (Note: Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from this requirement.

·       Provide employees, former employees and their representatives access to the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300). On February 1, and for three months, covered employers must post the summary of the OSHA log of injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300A).

·       Provide access to employee medical records and exposure records to employees or their authorized representatives.

·       Provide to the OSHA compliance officer the names of authorized employee representatives who may be asked to accompany the compliance officer during an inspection.

·       Not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act. See our “Whistleblower Protection” webpage.

·       Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved. Each citation must remain posted until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer. Post abatement verification documents or tags.

·       Correct cited violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required abatement verification documentation.

·       OSHA encourages all employers to adopt a safety and health program. Safety and health programs, known by a variety of names, are universal interventions that can substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and alleviate the associated financial burdens on U.S. workplaces. Many states have requirements or voluntary guidelines for workplace safety and health programs. Also, numerous employers in the United States already manage safety using safety and health programs, and we believe that all employers can and should do the same. Most successful safety and health programs are based on a common set of key elements. These include management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. OSHA’s Safe and Sound page contains more information.

Relevant OSHA standards:

There is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. Among the most relevant are:

·       The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

·       OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.

o   When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).

o   OSHA has issued temporary guidance related to enforcement of respirator annual fit-testing requirements for healthcare.

OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) applies to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials that typically do not include respiratory secretions that may transmit COVID-19. However, the provisions of the standard offer a framework that may help control some sources of the virus, including exposures to body fluids (e.g., respiratory secretions) not covered by the standard.

State Standards

There are twenty-eight OSHA-approved State Plans, operating state-wide occupational safety and health programs. State Plans are required to have standards and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA’s and may have different or more stringent requirements.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard is aimed at preventing worker illness from infectious diseases that can be transmitted by inhaling air that contains viruses (including COVID-19), bacteria or other disease-causing organisms. While the Cal/OSHA ATD standard is only mandatory for certain healthcare employers in California, it may provide useful guidance for protecting other workers exposed to COVID-19.

Employers must also protect their workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection. Employers should be aware that common sanitizers and sterilizers could contain hazardous chemicals. Where workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals, employers must comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910.1200), Personal Protective Equipment standards (in general industry 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I) and other applicable OSHA chemical standards. OSHA provides information about hazardous chemicals used in hospitals in the Housekeeping section of its Hospital eTool.

Recording workplace exposures to COVID-19

Recordkeeping and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness (29 CFR 1904)

Related Information

29 CFR 1904 – Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness

 

OSHA recordkeeping requirements at 29 CFR Part 1904 mandate covered employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log.

COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are met:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (see CDC information on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19);
  2. The case is work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g. medical treatment beyond first-aid, days away from work).

Visit OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements page for more information.

Other relevant OSHA standards

Depending on the specific work task, setting, and exposure to other biological or chemical agents, additional OSHA requirements that may apply include:

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Related Information

1910 Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment

1910.132, General requirements

§  Directives

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

§  Settlement agreements

1910.133, Eye and face protection

§  Topic Page

§  Directives

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

1910.134, Respiratory protection

§  Topic Page

§  Directives

§  Memo on enforcement of respirator annual fit-testing requirements for healthcare

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

§  Settlement agreements

1910.138, Hand protection

§  Directives

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

Subpart J – General Environmental Controls

1910.141, Sanitation

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

 

Subpart Z – Toxic and Hazardous Substances

§  Topic page

1910.1020, Access to employee exposure and medical records

§  Directives

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

1910.1030, Bloodborne pathogens

§  Topic Page

§  Directives

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

1910.1200, Hazard communication

§  Topic Page

§  Congressional testimonies

§  Directives

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

§  Memorandums of understanding

§  Settlement agreements

1910.1450, Occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories

§  Directives

§  Federal Register notices

§  Letters of interpretation

Federal Agencies (29 CFR 1960)

Related Information

29 CFR 1960 – Basic Program Elements for Federal Employee Occupational Safety and Health Programs and Related Matters

Complaints and Retaliation

An employee (or a representative) has the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint and request an OSHA inspection of the workplace if 1) the employee or representative believes there is a serious hazard or 2) the employer is not following OSHA standards. OSHA indicates that a signed complaint is more likely to result in an onsite inspection. Realistically, anyone can file a complaint with OSHA, and even where there is no problem or violation of a standard, such a complaint can become a tool of harassment of the business. OSHA will never divulge the identity of a complainant.

Retaliating against one believed to have called in OSHA can be very risky. An employee also has  the right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA if he or she believes the employer retaliated against the employee for exercising  rights as an employee under the whistleblower protection laws enforced by OSHA. In states with OSHA-approved State Plans, employees may file complaints with Federal OSHA and with the State Plan. See the Whistleblower Protection Program website.