You May Not Be as Protected as You Think…

April 13, 2021

By Darcy Cook, CHSO, SHS, PTA

If you received a Rapid Response Letter from OSHA or a call from Department of Public Health [DPH] for a COVID-19 related complaint would you have the documents that they expect?

We continue to field calls from companies who did not write a COVID-19 Control Plan that meets the expectations of DPH or OSHA nor do they have the supporting documentation to submit. Do not let this be you.

Did you use the template that the State of Massachusetts posted on its website as your COVID-19 Control Plan? If yes, you are not as protected as you think.

Massachusetts is not an OSHA State. That means, all businesses in State of Massachusetts must follow all OSHA federal laws for the workplace. The template on mass.gov website is more like a checklist to assist you in writing a detailed control plan that clearly explains your process to the Department of Public Health and/or OSHA. Checking the box does not tell your story.

Our experience shows us that when an employee calls OSHA to complain about unsafe conditions due to COVID-19 in the workplace, you can expect a rapid response letter requesting a written response and supporting documents be submitted within 5 days. Would you have it? Or would you be in a panic to respond within 5 days?

We have responded to several calls from companies in a panic who did not have the documents ready to send. Why? Because most companies using the template on mass.gov did not write supporting procedures in the four areas outlined in the document to include social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations and cleaning and disinfecting.

Can you show me in writing and clearly describe your screening process, how you have restricted employee contact, what surfaces are cleaned routinely, how often and who is disinfecting after identification of a positive employee case? Do you have disinfecting logs, a contact tracing report, and a corrective action statement for each employee who was in your buildings within the two-day window of an employee testing positive? And can you show documentation indicating all the training you have done with your employees to date on COVID-19 related topics?

When we write our COVID-19 Control Plans, the average number of pages is 14. We recently received a copy of a COVID-19 Control Plan for California’s State, and it is 42 pages long. What is my point? The two-page checklist on mass.gov website is not adequate.

On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden ordered OSHA to reconsider whether a temporary emergency standard for COVID-19 is necessary and, if so, to issue one by March 15. OSHA has released a National Emphasis Program on COVID-19. To learn more, read here.

Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov).

All businesses will need a COVID-19 Control Plan. So, I ask you. Would you be able to answer questions and provide supporting documentation to DPH or OSHA?

If you are unsure, there are workshops and training available through AIM HR Solutions and Mass MEP to help you comply, educate you and help you plan for the future. The COVID-19 conversation and infectious control are not going away anytime soon.

Resources
OSHA Guidance and Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace – January 29, 2021.

AIM HR Solutions Safety Training Series Virtual Safety Certificate Series – Level One