April 19, 2021

Volume XI, Number 109


April 16, 2021

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

Government Report Calls On OSHA Step Up Its Response to COVID-19

On February 25, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Labor issued a report that found there is an increased risk that OSHA “is not providing the level of protection that workers need at various job sites.”

In response to a request from Congress, the OIG conducted an audit on the measures OSHA has taken during the pandemic to ensure employers are mitigating risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. The OIG looked at the enforcement practices and public guidance OSHA has developed to address COVID-19-related challenges and their impact on protecting worker safety.

The OIG found that while OSHA has taken a series of actions to address COVID-19, it failed to keep pace in investigating the flood of incoming complaints. In 2020, compared to a similar period in 2019, OSHA received 15 percent more workplace safety complaints, but performed 50 percent fewer inspections. Additionally, the majority of OSHA inspections were conducted remotely. The OIG concluded that the decrease in investigations and the use of remote investigation techniques may have reduced worker safety by potentially allowing workplace hazards to remain unidentified for longer periods of time. 

The OIG also found that although OSHA had issued COVID-19 guidance for employers, that guidance lacks the enforceability of formal OSHA standards or rules. The OIG recommended that OSHA enhance onsite and remote inspection strategies and practices, and adopt an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases. The Biden administration has ordered OSHA to issue an emergency standard by March 15 if it determines that such a standard is necessary. OSHA has responded that it is working to launch a national COVID-19 emphasis program and is considering whether to issue an emergency standard. 

As a result of the OIG report and executive order, employers should be on the lookout for increased inspection and enforcement efforts by OSHA related to COVID-19 related workplace safety complaints.

© 2021 BARNES & THORNBURG LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 67



About this Author


Caroline represents employers in a range of actions involving harassment, retaliation, discrimination, wrongful termination, and wage and hour claims, including class actions.

Beyond litigation and agency representation, Caroline counsels senior management on day-to-day human resources and employee relations issues, including wage and hour compliance, disciplinary and performance counseling, reasonable accommodation, termination decisions, internal complaints and investigations, and employee classifications. She also assists with reviews and updates to company handbooks, policies...

Of Counsel

Leveraging deep experience as outside and in-house counsel, Christina M. “Tina” Janice is passionate about partnering with employers throughout the United States to help them thrive. A skilled employment law litigator and counselor, she helps clients navigate the challenges of growing and managing their workforce.

With a unique practice spanning nearly 30 years as a career litigator, trial lawyer and former head of litigation for a multinational S&P 500 company, Tina is sought out by major corporations and local business owners for providing sophisticated representation to...

Mark Wallin, Attorney, BT, Chicago, Labor Employment
Of Counsel

In order to provide the best counsel, Mark Wallin believes it is his role to understand his clients’ business needs so he can help them determine what resolution will provide the most benefit. His keen ability to understand his clients’ practical concerns allows him to advise on the best path to successfully resolve issues – whether through traditional litigation or negotiated resolution.

In the course of his practice, Mark has focused on providing the highest-level of service to his clients and building long-term relationships. Specifically, he defends employers in a wide range of...