I hesitated to report this because I don’t want anyone to interpret this as a carte blanche disregard of the coronavirus preventative measures and recommendations. However, I do think that this enforces my belief OSHA is not enforcing it’s own guidelines in regards to COVID-19.
Although I cannot reveal the company name or the project, a large trade contractor in South Florida received a letter from OSHA regarding an employee complaint of coworkers exhibiting symptoms including, but not limited to fever, sneezing, runny nose, cough and shortness of breath and retaliation from the employer if a worker refuses to work at a project, which has had multiple positive COVID-19 test results from coworkers at this same site. The letter from OSHA states “OSHA does not intend to conduct an inspection at this time. You are encouraged to investigate the alleged concerns and make any necessary corrections or modifications to minimize employee exposures to symptomatic employees in your workplace.”
There is no requirement from OSHA for the trade contractor to respond to the complaint. Therefore, it’s not even a “Phone/Fax Investigation” and certainly not an inspection. Multiple sources have indicated that OSHA is only responding to reports of fatalities and serious injury referrals. I have also been told, yet unconfirmed, that compliance officers are not to enter a site that is occupied so they will attempt to inspect outside of normal work hours. Safety and Risk Solutions clients are advised that OSHA workplace inspections must be conducted at a reasonable time, generally during the employer’s normal work hours, and in a reasonable manner so after hours inspections should be refused. The OSHA compliance officer must follow the CDC guidelines for personal protection, just as we do as essential workers.
Make of this as you will. As the infection numbers surge and we receive more reports of multiple positive testings on construction sites, we are in this alone in our fight against the virus. There is no calvary available.
Since March 15, 2020 we have conducted well over 300 inspections of which 228 included COVID-19 prevention. The results are listed below: