Diving Brief: Site workers are at increased risk for COVID-19 because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not provide the level of oversight necessary to maintain their safety, according to a recent report from the US Department of Labor’s Inspector General. IG found that, compared to 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration received 15% more complaints overall but conducted 50% fewer inspections, so as to reduce the level of personal contact during the pandemic. When compared to the statewide response, the Federal Safety Agency issued 295 violation citations related to 176 COVID-19 complaints while states issued 1,679 violation citations related to 756 similar complaints. Construction was one of the industries with the largest number of COIVD-19 safety complaints at 297. But to put that number into context, the Associated General Contractors of America business group includes 6,500 general contractors and more than 9,000 specialist contracting companies among the companies it represents. IG said OSHA’s physical presence on job sites usually speeds up mitigation of at least some of the risks identified by the inspectors. But most inspections during the pandemic were conducted remotely, leaving workers exposed to relentless risks for a longer period of time. The oversight agency said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agrees with its recommendations on on-site and remote inspection strategies and the Interim Emergency Standard for Infectious Diseases. Dive Insight: Specifically, IG recommended: OSHA prioritizes high-risk and high-risk employers to on-site inspections related to COVID-19, particularly as companies reopen and operations increase. Track remote inspections retrospectively until February 1, 2020, and keep track of them. Compare remote inspections with on-site inspections with regard to frequency and timeliness of inspectors to identify and ensure job site hazards are minimized. Analyze and determine whether establishing an interim infectious disease emergency standard is necessary to help control the spread of COVID-19 at work sites. IG included OSHA’s written response to its recommendations; The agency said it accepts the recommendations and is working on all of them. During the administration of former President Donald Trump, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opposed suggestions – and even legal action – that it is setting an interim emergency standard for COVID-19, arguing that public health guidelines are constantly evolving. The AFL-CIO took the agency to court to try to force it to develop a standard, but the union’s legal challenge failed. On his first full day in office, President Joe Biden ordered OSHA to reconsider whether the provisional emergency standard for COVID-19 was necessary and, if so, to issue one by March 15. Attorney Philip Russell with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, and Smoak & Stewart does not rule out the possibility that the IG report was also a political snapshot. He said, “This is the current Minister of Labor telling the Ministry of Labor in the previous administration that he should have done more.” In fact, Virginia Democratic Representative Bobby Scott, chair of the US House of Representatives’ Education and Labor Committee, released a press release this week stating that he was asking the Department of Labor to issue an emergency temporary standard for a year and that the IG report “reveals the consequences of the Trump administration’s inaction.” For employers, Russell said, the shift toward an increased OSH presence on site could mean a few things – less negotiation, more citations, and more litigation.