Fedweek

In the latest audit raising issues about agency compliance with Coronavirus safety protections, the IG at the SBA has focused on building occupancy levels and contract tracing when a worker had a known or suspected exposure.

The report comes as agencies are reviewing and updating their workplace safety protocols in light of a Biden administration directive also addressing telework, alternative work schedules and other workplace practices for the long-run.

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The audit found that the SBA last year “decided to return workers to SBA headquarters and advance through occupancy phases but did not provide support that showed all the CDC gating conditions were met. SBA did not downgrade phases during periods of community COVID-19 resurgence or when a case was reported at headquarters.”

“SBA also did not implement exposure tracking protocols to ensure it consistently traced COVID-19 cases. We found the agency did not consistently notify its staff of presumed or confirmed COVID-19 cases in the sampling of cases we analyzed,” the report said.

In that sample of 19 cases, none “contained all supporting documentation” to show that protocols were followed, and in only seven of those was there documentation that the agency had contacted and received responses from potentially affected employees “to inquire on the extent of contact with other employees.”

The agency also did not SBA ensure employees subject to quarantine periods completed them before working onsite, it said. Also, a case tracking system the SBA used in making decisions “likely underreported the number of reported cases in the agency.”

It said SBA management agreed with its recommendations and plans to “track and document cases of exposure with an emphasis on maintaining both workforce safety and individual privacy.”

A recent report on OPM said that auditors were unable to determine if OPM had notified co-workers after confirmed or expected cases among onsite employees or had performed additional cleaning as required under its own policies. A separate report on SSA field offices raised issues including a lack of contact information on visitors and the lack of a way to assure that they inform the agency if they learn they may have been infected at the time of their visit.

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook

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