New OSHA COVID-19 Guidance

February 15, 2021

In response to President Biden’s Executive Order, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has issued stronger, more detailed guidance related to COVID-19, Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework

OSHA’s Guidance makes clear that it creates no new legal obligations and is not a standard or regulation.  The Guidance states employers should implement COVID-19 prevention programs and should include: “conducting a hazard assessment; identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace; adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace; and implementing protections from retaliation for workers who have COVID-19 related concerns.”

 The elements of the recommended COVID-19 prevention program include:

  1. Assignment of a workplace coordinator.
  2. Identification of where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work.
  3. Identification of a combination of measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, in line with the principles of the hierarchy of controls.
  4. Consideration of protections for workers at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices.
  5. Establishment of a system for communicating effectively with workers and in a language they understand.
  6. Educating and training workers on COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in a language they understand.
  7. Instructing workers who are infected or potentially infected to stay home and isolate or quarantine.
  8. Minimizing the negative impact of quarantine and isolation of workers.
  9. Isolating workers who show symptoms at work.
  10. Performing enhanced cleaning and disinfection after people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 have been in the facility.
  11. Providing guidance on screening and testing.
  12. Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths as required by the OSH Act and health departments.
  13. Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
  14. Making a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to eligible employees.
  15. Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not. Workers who are vaccinated must continue to follow protective measures because at this time there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from person-to-person.
  16. Compliance with all applicable OSHA standards.

 OSHA’s Guidance also offers other key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19:

  • Eliminating The Hazard By Separating And Sending Home Infected Or Potentially Infected People From The Workplace.
  • Implement Physical Distancing In All Communal Work Areas
  • Installing Barriers Where Physical Distancing Cannot Be Maintained.
  • Suppressing The Spread Of The Hazard Using Face Coverings.
  • Improving Ventilation.
  • Use Personal Protective Equipment When Necessary.
  • Provide The Supplies Necessary For Good Hygiene Practices.
  • Perform Routine Cleaning And Disinfection.

Each of the above is discussed in more detail in the Guidance.  In conducting investigations involving COVID-19, OSHA has considered an employer’s good faith efforts to comply with safety and health standards and guidance.   A listing of the OSHA standards that have been cited most frequently during COVID-19 related inspections can be found at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/covid-citations-guidance.pdf.

If you have any questions about OSHA's Guiidance, please contact S. Eric Steinle or Carole DeWald.



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