OSHA issues guidance regarding silica standards enforcement
On June 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a compliance directive designed to ensure uniformity in inspection and enforcement procedures when addressing respirable crystalline silica exposures in general industry, maritime and construction, according to osha.gov.
The new directive provides guidance for OSHA compliance safety and health officers regarding how to enforce the silica standards’ requirements, including methods of compliance; Table 1 tasks and specified exposure control methods; exposure assessments; housekeeping; respiratory protection; regulated areas; record keeping; employee information and training; medical surveillance; and communication of hazards.
The directive also clarifies major topics such as alternative exposure control methods when a construction employer does not fully and properly implement Table 1, variability in sampling, multiemployer situations and temporary workers.
OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the construction standard in September 2017, with enforcement of the requirements for sample analysis starting in June 2018.
OSHA revises rule regarding its access to medical records
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has revised the Rules of Agency Practice and Procedure Concerning Occupational Safety and Health Administration Access to Employee Medical Records. The rule describes internal procedures OSHA personnel must follow when obtaining and using personally identifiable employee medical information.
OSHA amended several of the rule’s provisions to improve efficiency in implementing the internal procedures. The final rule transfers the approval of written medical access orders from the assistant secretary of occupational safety and health to the OSHA medical records officer, who is responsible for determining the transfer and public disclosure of personally identifiable employee medical information in OSHA’s possession. The rule also clarifies a written medical access order does not constitute an administrative subpoena and establishes new procedures for the access and safeguarding of personally identifiable employee medical information maintained in electronic form. Additional information is available at osha.gov.
Virginia adopts workplace safety standards for COVID-19
On July 15, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) announced the adoption of statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to COVID-19, according to governor.virginia.gov.
The safety rules are the first of their kind in the U.S. and will protect Virginian workers by mandating appropriate personal protective equipment, sanitation, social distancing, infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training and hazard communications in workplaces throughout Virginia.
“Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a living, especially during an ongoing global pandemic,” Northam says. “In the face of federal inaction, Virginia has stepped up to protect workers from COVID-19, creating the nation’s first enforceable workplace safety requirements. Keeping Virginians safe at work is not only a critical part of stopping the spread of this virus, it’s key to our economic recovery and it’s the right thing to do.”
Newly adopted standards require all employers to mandate social distancing measures and face coverings for employees in customer-facing positions and when social distancing is not possible; provide frequent access to hand washing or hand sanitizer; and regularly clean high-contact surfaces. In addition, the standards require all employees be notified within 24 hours if a co-worker tests positive for COVID-19. Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for the virus cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests.
The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board voted to approve an emergency temporary standard on infectious disease prevention after Northam directed the creation of enforceable regulations in May. These temporary emergency standards will remain in effect for six months and can be made permanent through the process defined in state law.