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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ADOPTS REVISED ENFORCEMENT POLICIES FOR CORONAVIRUS

News Release

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ADOPTS REVISED ENFORCEMENT POLICIES FOR CORONAVIRUS

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted revised policies for enforcing OSHA’s requirements with respect to coronavirus as economies reopen in states throughout the country.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, understanding about the transmission and prevention of infection has improved. The government and the private sector have taken rapid and evolving measures to slow the virus’s spread, protect employees, and adapt to new ways of doing business.

Now, as states begin reopening their economies, OSHA has issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees.

First, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. The new enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many non-critical businesses have begun to reopen in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections, and will utilize all enforcement tools as OSHA has historically done.

Second, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus. Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, coronavirus is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of the coronavirus, if the case:

Under the new policy issued today, OSHA will enforce the recordkeeping requirements of 29 CFR 1904 for employee coronavirus illnesses for all employers. Given the nature of the disease and community spread, however, in many instances it remains difficult to determine whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure both in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes that employers must make reasonable efforts, based on the evidence available to the employer, to ascertain whether a particular case of coronavirus is work-related.

Recording a coronavirus illness does not mean that the employer has violated any OSHA standard. Following existingregulations, employers with 10 or fewer employees and certain employers in low hazard industries have no recording obligations; they need only report work-related coronavirus illnesses that result in a fatality or an employee’s in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye.[1]

For further information and resources about the coronavirus disease, please visit OSHA’s coronavirus webpage.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

[1]See 29 C.F.R. §§ 1904.1(a)(1), 1904.2.

Agency
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Date
May 19, 2020
Release Number
20-1054-NAT
Contact: Department of Labor National Contact Center

May 18 COVID-19 Update from UCANE’s Executive Director Jeff Mahoney

To All UCANE Members:

The Baker Administration has released its Reopening Massachusetts plan. As of today, May 18, construction projects that were deemed non-essential may resume work as part of the Phase 1 reopening. You can get the specific guidelines and safety protocols here: MA CONSTRUCTION SAFETY STANDARDS

These are the guidelines that have been previously issued for the ongoing construction work that was deemed essential and have been implemented by UCANE members who have continued to work throughout this crisis. These guidelines will now apply to all projects upon reopening. Please be aware that some municipalities and awarding authorities may still add additional job and site-specific protocols and requirements.

Other details about the Reopening Plan, including workplace posters, general business guidance, and when other businesses may be allowed to open, can be found here: REOPENING MA DETAILS. Each Phase of the 4 Phase Reopening Plan will last a minimum of three weeks, and may last longer depending on the health data. Please keep UCANE informed of any issues you may be experiencing so that we may continue to present information and concerns to the Reopening Advisory Board and other officials.

As the reopening moves forward towards a “new normal,” UCANE will continue to provide information and answer any questions and concerns you may have. Also, be on the lookout for updates on upcoming UCANE programs and events as we continue to evaluate any changes made necessary by COVID-19.

Most importantly, please continue to work safely and stay healthy! Thanks for your support of UCANE.

Best,

Jeff

Use Your Bonding Company as a Resource!

In uncertain times such as these, your relationship with your bond company is especially important.  As part of their underwriting process, they have teams of analysts monitoring the legal, economic and political climate across the country – some across the World.  The branches share local knowledge with the home office who, in turn, disseminates it to the branches. 

For example, because we are a member of the Surety Association of Massachusetts, we recently received this email:

Members,

We have been made aware of efforts by public owners in other states to shift the risk of COVID-19 (and potential future pandemics) onto the contractor. Specifically, there have been reports of contract language aimed at restricting or prohibiting a contractor’s ability to make a claim for an adjustment to contract sum and/or contract time.

The following language was added just prior to a bid via an addendum to a Wayne County Schools project in Ohio:

“Contractor acknowledges and agrees that it assumes all risk associated with impacts resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, that the Contract Sum and the bid submitted by Contractor has factored in the risks associated with impacts from COVID-19, and that impacts resulting from or related to COVID-19, including but not limited to acts of government, acts of public authorities, and any instances that may constitute a force majeure event, shall not be a basis for a Contractor to make a claim for an adjustment to the Contract Sum”

And further:

“impacts resulting from or related to COVID-19 […] shall not be a basis for a Contractor to make a claim for an adjustment to the Contract Sum, and/or to terminate or suspend the Contract except […] for an [sic] no-cost extension of the Contract Time […]”

Fortunately other state chapters have experienced some success in pushing back against owners on this issue. We encourage members to maintain awareness of this language, and SAM will remain available to intervene on behalf of our member companies as needed. As always, we encourage each member to develop their own risk mitigation strategies.

Best regards,
The Surety Association of Massachusetts