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OSHA Safety and Reporting Guidelines: Changes in Response to the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic and Impact on the Construction Industry

April 27, 2020
Thomas More Buckley

“While no specific OSHA standards apply to virus protection, and the virtually unprecedented nature of [the COVID-19] pandemic results in a situation in which no specific regulations have yet been promulgated to address it, there are OSHA standards that the Department of Labor (DOL) has highlighted as applying to worker exposure to the novel coronavirus,” Goldberg Segalla partner Thomas More Buckley writes in the IADC Construction Law and Litigation Committee Newsletter.

In his article, Tom highlights OSHA’s PPE Standards, General Duty Clause, Guidance on Preparing Workplaces, and a recent enforcement memorandum confirming COVID-19 is a reportable/recordable illness under OSHA recordkeeping requirements.

“Overall, while the construction industry faces many of the same challenges that other industries are struggling with in reaction to the widespread impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic, OSHA’s guidelines in that connection need to be considered, but do not appear to place onerous additional safety requirements on the construction industry,” Tom writes. “While acting within its mandate to protect worker safety, OSHA has issued guidelines that indicate applicability of existing standards, (PPE’s, general duty, reporting/recording illnesses that are work-related), as opposed to promulgating new regulations, particularly with respect to industries like construction that likely fall within the medium and lower exposure risk levels.”

“OSHA mandates continue to be focused on worker safety,” he concludes, “and it is important to review safety programs and confirm that the programs in place, potentially coupled with additional safety plans and measures such as administrative and personal protection controls related specifically to the spread of infection, are sufficient to meet the needs of worker safety.”

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Thomas More Buckley is a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Raleigh office and a member of its Construction and Commercial Litigation and Arbitration practices. His practice concentrates on defending clients in complex commercial litigation, focusing largely on construction and employment matters. He is OSHA 30-certified, and counsels clients on OSHA enforcement matters as well as the formulation and implementation of safety plans. He serves as chair of the IADC’s Construction Law and Litigation Committee.