OSHA Publishes Faqs For Workplace Safety During Covid-19 Pandemic

Jeffrey Maylor
Jeffrey Maylor
07/07/2020

Before the July 4th weekend, the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published frequently asked questions  and answers about best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.  The FAQs cover topics from cleaning and disinfecting to personal protective equipment.  The answers include links to relevant OSHA publications like OSHA’s Guidance on Returning to Work and an OSHA Alert to prevent worker exposure to COVID-19.  The information is helpful for both employers and workers, so they can work safely as more businesses reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAQs include:

What precautions should employers in non-healthcare workplaces take to protect workers from COVID-19?

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (AlertGuidance) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)have issued workplace guidance to guide employers during the COVID-19 outbreak. They describe how employers should develop preparedness plans and communicate those plans to protect workers through effective training. Employers should assess worker exposure to hazards and risks and implement infection prevention measures to reasonably address them consistent with OSHA Standards. Such measures could include promoting frequent and thorough handwashing or sanitizing with at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer; encouraging workers to stay at home if sick; encouraging use of cloth face coverings; and training them on proper respiratory etiquette, social distancing, and other steps they can take to protect themselves.. Employers may need to consider using stanchions to help keep workers and others at the worksite at least 6 feet away from each other. Installing temporary barriers and shields and spacing out workstations can also help achieve social distancing recommendations. Employers should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g., door handles, sink handles, workstations, restroom stalls) at least daily, or as much as possible. Employers subject to OSHA’s PPE standard must also provide and require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed. Job hazard assessments must be conducted to determine the appropriate type and level of PPE required.

Has OSHA waived any requirements of its standards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • All OSHA standards remain in effect. However, OSHA understands employers are concerned about their ability to comply with certain requirements during the pandemic and is exercising temporary enforcement discretion for certain provisions of OSHA standards, such as those for initial or recurring training, audits, reviews, testing, and assessments.

What topics should employers cover in COVID-19 training for workers?

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should consider training workers about:
    • The basics of how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads;
    • Their risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on the job;
    • Appropriate cleaning and disinfection in the workplace.
    • Measures being taken to protect them from exposure and infection, including handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, social distancing, and use of any necessary workplace controls and/or personal protective equipment (PPE);
    • What employees should do if they are sick, including staying home and reporting any signs/symptoms of COVID-19 to their supervisor.
  • Some OSHA standards require employers to provide specific training to workers. For example, there are training requirements in OSHA’s PPE standards (29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart I), including the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
  • The training that is necessary can vary depending on a worker’s job tasks, exposure risks, and the type of controls implemented to protect workers. See OSHA’s COVID-19 Safety and Health Topics page for more specific information.

OSHA’s COVID-19 resources can be found on their coronavirus webpage.

For more information about reopening your workplace during COVID-19, please view Randi Hyatt’s and Garrett Wozniak’s discussion about reopening and reintegrating the workplace that can be viewed here.

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