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OSHA  Enforcement Easements Due to COVID-19

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a Memorandum on Discretion in Enforcement when Considering an Employer’s Good Faith Efforts During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic, which will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice.  In light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, OSHA understands that some employers may face difficulties complying with OSHA standards due to the ongoing health emergency.  Widespread business closures, restrictions on travel, limitations on group sizes, facility visitor prohibitions, and stay-at-home or shelter-in-place requirements may limit the availability of employees, consultants, or contractors who normally provide training, auditing, equipment inspections, testing, and other essential safety and industrial hygiene services.  During the course of an inspection, OSHA Area Offices will assess an employer's efforts to comply with standards that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training, or assessments, and evaluate whether the employer has made good faith efforts to comply with applicable OSHA standards and, in situations where compliance was not possible, to ensure that employees were not exposed to hazards from tasks, processes, or equipment for which they were not prepared or trained.  The guidance is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis.

Please review the memorandum in its entirety for additional detail on these provisions.  For more information about COVID -19 please visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage and CDC's COVID-19 webpage.

Guidance if an Employee is Exposed to COVID-19

 

MCPR Joins a Federal Coalition and a Minnesota Coalition to Promptly Address the Pending Season CDL Crisis for MCPR members

Federal Programs Created by the New CARE Legislation and Previous Emerging Issues  ( Source ASTA)

    • Federal Loan Programs
    • Essential Critical Infrastructure
      • (March 29)ASTA Memo to Members on COVID-19
      • (March 28) The Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released updated guidance on critical infrastructure workers. In this guidance, seed is included in the critical infrastructure.
        • “Employees of companies engaged in the production, storage, transport, and distribution of chemicals, medicines, vaccines, and other substances used by the food and agriculture industry, including seeds, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, minerals, enrichments, and other agricultural production aids.”
        • The purpose of the guidance is “to help State and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. The list can also inform critical infrastructure community decision-making to determine the sectors, sub-sectors, segments, or critical functions that should continue normal operations, appropriately modified to account for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) workforce and customer protection guidance.” Companies and employees may use the memo and guidance in their communication with state and local authorities.
        • (March 19) The previous guidance, released on March 19, listed seed as an agricultural input.
      • Labor
        • New Regulations
        • H-2A Temporary Agriculture Workers
          • (April 1) The U.S. Department of Labor issued a second Question & Answer document to address potential issues regarding the H-2A temporary agricultural labor certification program during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find that document here.
          • (March 26)The State Department announced expanded interview waiver eligibility to ensure that the majority of H-2 processing can continue. Consulates can waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no potential ineligibility, and the expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Please refer to this Q&A document from the State Department for additional details.
          • (March 19)The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Labor announced a partnership to facilitate the identification of nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks. Some of these workers may be eligible to transfer to other U.S. agricultural sector employers during this time to fill in the workforce gaps during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers should visit https://www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a to access that workforce information. All existing statutory and regulatory requirements for employers continue to apply.
          • Employers should continue to monitor the State Department’s COVID-19 information pagefor country-specific information.
        • Transportation
          • (March 26) FMCSA Emergency Declaration: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an emergency declaration which provides hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency supplies to deal with COVID-19 – the full declaration can be found here.
          • Agriculture does not currently fall under this emergency declaration.There is a standing Hours of Service (HOS) ag exemption in place that covers a 150-air mile radius during a state’s designated planting and harvesting season. For most states, the seasons are from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 but there are about 14 or so states where it is not year-round. FMCSA is considering a separate exemption for agriculture or expanding the current declaration to include
          • (March 24) The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a temporary waiver for some commercial vehicle drivers to address disruptions in licensing and other requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will allow FMCSA to exercise its enforcement discretion in certain cases when a commercial learners’ permit, CDL or Medical Certificate is expired. The Notice of Enforcement policy can be found here, and the waiver can be found here. The waiver will expire on June 30, 2020.
          • FMCSA is also aware of the concerns that there may be a shortage of truckers, and they are “exploring working within their regulatory authority to see what they can do to make sure the capacity of our nations drivers remains high.”
        • Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS):
          • APHISand AMS continue to provide critical inspections and grading services.
          • APHIS and AMS are ensuring the health and safety of USDA employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply moving from farms to forks.
          • APHIS and AMS are prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in their services.
          • AMS will continue to report commodity prices through its market news service.
          • Commodity markets can be assured that the USDA will keep America’s food supply safe as well as abundant during this national emergency.
          • (March 26) APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Provides and Update on Import and Export Activities for Plants and Plant Products
          • (March 20) APHIS Statementon COVID-19

Minnesota Department of Health Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

FMCSA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information & Resources - 'New' Online Weblink

We have ‘reorganized’ our online listing of COVID-19 State declarations and actions:

• The new link is: www.fmcsa.dot.gov/COVID-19

• This contains all the declarations, guidance, waivers, FAQ’s.

o It is linked on the homepage and in the emergency declarations page.

o All the former links should work and remain operational. We are posting a redirect link on the old page, that will lead to this updated page.

• Going forward all online posted items related to ‘COVID-19’ will be added to this page.

The U.S. Department Transportation has a Coronavirus Resources weblink, located here: https://www.transportation.gov/coronavirus