(Reuters) – The U.S. Labor Department will expand inspections of businesses to reduce job-site hazards related to the new coronavirus as employees begin returning to work across the country, although the policy falls short of demands by worker advocates.
FILE PHOTO: A man crosses a nearly deserted Fulton Street in the financial district in lower Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., April 3, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
The revised policy, issued late on Tuesday, by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, expands inspections beyond those in healthcare facilities, which the agency said last month it was prioritizing to conserve resources.
OSHA also said it was requiring all businesses to record COVID-19 as a workplace illness where the employer could reasonably determine the infection occurred at work. In early April, OSHA had eased the recording requirements for businesses outside healthcare, first responders and prisons.
OSHA can fine employers for violating workplace safety rules, but only after it conducts inspections and investigations.
The revised policies stopped short of one of the key demands of unions, which have been lobbying lawmakers and have gone to court to try to force OSHA to adopt an emergency temporary standard for workplace safety regarding COVID-19.
A COVID-19 standard would impose requirements on businesses and speed up the enforcement process for companies that don’t comply, said David Muraskin of advocacy group Public Justice.
He said employers currently have a general duty to provide a safe workplace by applying guidance from various agencies, but those requirements are often softened with language such as “where possible” and “if feasible.”
“That’s why people want actual standards,” said Muraskin. “It has a real effect. These inspections are likely a way for the administration to claim it is doing something without actually doing anything.”
Public Justice represented a workers group that sued Smithfield Foods Inc to try to force the meat producer to boost safety at its Milan, Missouri, plant.
The case was quickly dismissed, but a similar case was brought against McDonald’s Corp this week.
Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis
more recommended stories
Oil prices fall as coronavirus case surge heightens demand fears
MELBOURNE/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices slipped.
Dollar holds advantage as anxiety grows over rise in coronavirus cases
TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar held.
Ex-Morgan Stanley diversity officer says bank slashed her budget by 71%
FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Morgan.
Google sets 2025 leadership diversity goal, ends ‘tailgater’ ID checks
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s.
Main Street’s boldest take on Wall Street in bankruptcy stock frenzy
NEW YORK (Reuters) – When Bryan.
Senate bill aims to improve aircraft certification after 737 MAX crashes
SEATTLE/CHICAGO/TRURO, Mass. (Reuters) – U.S. senators.
Transparency needed to restore trust after 737 MAX crashes: FAA chief
FILE PHOTO: Boeing 737 Max aircraft.
Global stocks jump on Fed support, easing second wave fears
TOKYO/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Asian shares.
Oil prices ease as coronavirus infections rise
TOKYO (Reuters) – Oil prices dipped.
Exclusive: U.S. companies can work with Huawei on 5G standards – Commerce Department
(Reuters) – The United States on.