DOL to Continue Audit of OSHA's Pandemic Response Into 2022
Monday, May 3, 2021 | 0
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to face scrutiny by the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, which stated in a report issued Thursday that more federal dollars will help continue its audit into 2022.
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law in March, provided the Office of Inspector General an additional $12.5 million to conduct further pandemic-focused oversight activities, which will include a focus on OSHA activities.
Previously issued in a separate report in February, the inspector general’s OSHA audit found that “increased complaints, reduced inspections and the degree of remote inspections conducted subjected the nation’s workforce to greater safety risk.”
The report also stated that OSHA had not issued an enforceable emergency temporary standard — a step considered imminent as OSHA is now awaiting approval of a final draft of a COVID-19 safety standard — “that may have better protected the health and safety of the workforce during the pandemic.” That audit also highlighted concerns with whistleblower protections.
“As a result of our audit, OSHA is improving its inspection strategy by prioritizing high-risk employers for COVID-19-related on-site inspections and conducting further analysis to determine whether establishing an infectious disease-specific emergency temporary standard is needed to help control the spread of COVID-19,” the latest report states, highlighting potential focuses for future phases of the audit.
By October 2022, the inspector general’s office aims to have investigated the oversight of high-risk industries and of corrective actions taken in response to the initial report on OSHA’s handling of whistleblower complaints. Other focuses will include OSHA’s effectiveness of the National Emphasis Program for COVID-19 and impact complaints and referrals on OSHA’s operations, and the adequacy and timeliness of abatement actions taken by employers, according to the report.
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