DOL Report: OSHA’s COVID-19 Response Came Up Short

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. November 14, 2022
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U.S. Department of Labor headquarters

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not adequately protect workers from COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic. We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Citations Often Not Issued

The Oct. 31 report found that OSHA did not issue citations to enforce the standard for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses in 15 percent of sampled fatality inspections and did not have complete information on COVID-19 infection rates at worksites.

(Business Insurance)

Inspections Closed Too Soon

The OIG also found that OSHA closed inspections without ensuring it had reviewed all items the agency had requested from employers to prove they had mitigated alleged COVID-19 health hazards. The OIG previously had noted a significant reduction in OSHA inspections during the pandemic, even as complaints spiked.

(McKnight's Senior Living)

Recommended Steps

The OIG recommended that OSHA:

  • Provide additional training to compliance safety and health officers to enforce the record-keeping and reporting standards for fatalities.
  • Update agency policy to include a supervisory review of inspection files to ensure they contain adequate support for the reasons regarding decisions on issuing citations before closing inspections.
  • Develop a plan for a future pandemic to collaborate with external agencies on worksite case data and to use this data to maximize rapid response and enforcement actions in worksites.

(EHS Daily Advisor)

Few Inspectors

The report didn't mention meatpacking plants, but much of the criticism of OSHA's handling of the pandemic revolved around those facilities. At the pandemic's outset, the agency had the fewest number of inspectors in decades. Meanwhile, the number of workplaces it had to review had increased.

(Investigate Midwest)

OSHA Cited Meatpacking Plants for Coronavirus Failures

OSHA on Sept. 10, 2020, issued its first citation against a meatpacking plant for failing to protect workers against COVID-19. The Smithfield Packaged Meats Corp. in Sioux Falls, S.D., was cited after more than 1,000 workers became ill and four died. A second plant was cited the following day.

(SHRM Online)

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