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‘Take a good, hard look’: OSHA webinar explores COVID-19 prevention in construction, manufacturing

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Washington — Acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt is urging employers in the construction and manufacturing industries to “take a good, hard look at what your people are doing and what adjustments you can make” to prevent worker exposure to COVID-19.

“Can you build in a way to ensure that people aren’t so close together? Can you build in that 6 feet?” Sweatt asked during a June 25 Department of Labor Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy virtual roadshow stakeholder webinar.

She said frequent cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch items on jobsites deserves special attention, along with ensuring workers are being provided the personal protective equipment they need. Employers should perform a job hazard analysis and update their disaster recovery plans to include COVID-19.

As of June 25, the agency had received more than 6,000 COVID-19-related complaints from workers, said Sweatt, who added, “We have investigated every single one or are in the process of investigating them.” According to an OSHA spokesperson, the agency received 8,656 COVID-19-related complaints between Feb. 1 and Aug. 4 – 6,692 of which have been closed. Before closing a complaint investigation, OSHA area offices review employer responses about actions taken to determine if further action is warranted, the spokesperson said. Agency inspectors, meanwhile, won’t close a case if they have identified safety violations.

According to the spokesperson, federal OSHA has opened 801 inspections. Of those, 763 were open as of Aug. 4. Of the 38 inspections that have been closed, 32 employers were determined to be in compliance and six were issued hazard alert letters.

According to the agency, it has cited three violations related to respiratory protection and one violation related to recordkeeping requirements.

 

Sweatt said OSHA continues to encourage workers to share complaints by calling (800) 321-6742 or submitting an online complaint form.

Sweatt also told attendees:

  • OSHA has worked regularly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure consistency in COVID-19 messaging. “We’re really dedicated to working with our federal partners to ensure we’re speaking with one voice.”
  • Employers should make sure “they’re looking at legitimate resources online” for current safety and health information, such as OSHA.gov and CDC.gov.

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