OSHA Explains Common COVID-19 Citations and How to Avoid Them


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued guidance identifying the violations of workplace standards most often found during COVID-related inspections, accompanied by a one-page summary identifying requirements that employers must follow.

According to OSHA, the most frequently-cited standards include Respiratory ProtectionRecording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and IllnessesPersonal Protective Equipment and the General Duty Clause. In its guidance, OSHA provides descriptions of the various violations, as well as links to relevant resources and other information. With regard to the General Duty Clause, which is applicable to all employers, OSHA noted that “employers must protect employees from COVID-19 hazards at the workplace by, for example, installing plastic barriers or ensuring social distancing.”

The one-pager provides examples of requirements employers have most frequently failed to follow, such as:

  • Provide a medical evaluation before a worker is fit-tested or uses a respirator.
  • Perform an appropriate fit test for workers using tight fitting respirators.
  • Assess the workplace to determine if COVID-19 hazards are present, or likely to be present, requiring the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Establish, implement, and update a written respiratory protection program with required worksite-specific procedures.
  • Provide an appropriate respirator and/or other PPE to each employee when necessary.
  • Train/retrain workers to safely use respirators and/or other PPE in the workplace.
  • Store respirators and other PPE properly in a way to protect them from damage, contamination, and possible deformation of the facepiece and exhalation valve.
  • For any fatality that occurs within 30 days of a work-related incident, report the fatality to OSHA within eight hours of finding out about it.
  • Keep required records of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illness.

OSHA also reminds small and medium-sized employers that it offers a no-cost, confidential On-Site Consultation Program to help them identify workplace hazards, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs. The consultation program is separate from enforcement and will not result in penalties or citations.