Resources & Insights

OSHA COVID-19 Citations and Penalties Mount

November 4, 2020

Steve Carpenter,
Senior Risk Control Advocate

3.5-minute read

COVID-19 citations are on the rise. Since the start of the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited 112 businesses and others for a range of violations relating to coronavirus, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $1,603,544.

Should construction company owners be worried about COVID-19 citations? Probably, although the answer to that question, as always, would largely depend on how closely they’re following the rules.

Among other things, OSHA inspections have resulted in the agency citing employers for failures to:

Does that sound like OSHA is doing what it should amid COVID-19? Or should it be issuing more COVID-19 citations to protect workers at the moment? Those of us who have been around a while know that OSHA draws criticism regardless of which political party is in power.

That said, the agency came under such withering fire this year that it felt compelled to issue a statement reminding employers it means business.

“OSHA can and will use enforcement, as necessary, to ensure the protection of workers exposed to COVID-19,” it said at one point.

Beyond enforcement, OSHA lately has also chimed in with an FAQ on N95 masks, the source of some controversy over their effectiveness in blocking the virus. Here’s what OSHA had to say about it:

“Yes, an N95 respirator is effective in protecting workers from the virus that causes COVID-19. ‘N95’ refers to a class of respirator filter that removes at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles from the air.

“Some people have mistakenly claimed that since the virus that causes COVID-19 is approximately 0.1 microns in size, wearing an N95 respirator will not protect against such a small virus. That mistaken claim appears to result from a misunderstanding of how respirators work.

“When an infected person expels the virus into the air by activities like talking, coughing, or sneezing, the airborne particles are composed of more than just the virus. The virus is part of larger particles that are made up of water and other materials such as mucus. These larger particles are easily trapped and filtered out by N95 respirators because they are too big to pass through the filter.”

There’s more about N95s and other questions on OSHA’s COVID-19 page, but you get the point:

COVID-19 citations are a real thing. And while labor unions and others may hope for even stricter oversight and more penalties, OSHA is stiffening its response to the pandemic and so a review of its guidance regarding COVID-19 is definitely in order.

Steve Carpenter is a senior risk control advocate in CCIG’s Risk Management department. Reach him at or at 720-212-2054.

CCIG is a Denver-area insurance, employee benefits and surety brokerage with clients nationwide. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We help you manage your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.

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