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OSHA’s actions during COVID-19 pandemic under review, DOL inspector general says

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Photo: House Committee on Oversight and Reform

Washington — The Department of Labor Office of Inspector General is reviewing OSHA’s enforcement activities and guidance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, DOL Inspector General Scott Dahl indicated during a House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee virtual briefing June 1.

Acknowledging that he was “very surprised” that OSHA had, at the time the briefing took place, issued only one COVID-19-related citation out of the thousands of complaints it has received, Dahl – who announced June 2 that he is retiring as inspector general June 21 – said his office will look into what can be done to make the agency’s enforcement activities “more efficient and effective.”

During a May 28 hearing convened by the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt said the agency can take up to six months to complete an investigation into a complaint, resulting in lag time before seeing tangible results.

Dahl said he doesn’t believe the lone OSHA citation “took months,” adding, “I think it was recently issued after OSHA was informed of [a violation] on May 5.”

As part of Phase 1 of the office’s four-phase Pandemic Response Oversight Plan, DOL OIG also will look at the numerous OSHA guidance materials issued during the pandemic, with an initial report expected to be released at the end of the month, Assistant Inspector General Elliot Lewis said.

Lewis added that DOL OIG will look at OSHA’s inspection activity and is coordinating with the Department of Agriculture OIG on issues regarding meatpacking or meat processing plants – a notable hot spot of COVID-19 infections.

 

According to its semiannual report to Congress, released June 1, DOL OIG also will examine OSHA’s plans for future pandemics.

Phase 2 of the plan – which will “evaluate OSHA’s efforts to protect people on the front lines of this pandemic” (including doctors, nurses, emergency responders and other health care workers) – is expected to be completed in September. The completion of Phase 3, which will include examining the pandemic’s impact on OSHA’s inspections and investigations, is anticipated in September 2021, while the final phase is “ongoing.”

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