New OSHA Guidance for Implementing a COVID-19 Workplace Prevention Program
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has finally published updated guidance on implementing safe workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. On January 29, 2021, the guidance titled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” was published. (U.S. Dept. of Labor – OSHA) “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”
It is important to note that this remains only general guidance from OSHA. The guidelines do not create a standard or regulations that legally obligate employers to comply. The below guidelines have been issued to assist employers in either continuing to provide or transitioning into a safe COVID-19 workplace. OSHA has indicated that these guidelines can be used to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and implement proper protection procedures. The Guidance provides that the following measures should be taken:
- Create a workplace coordinator responsible for COVID-19 issues on the employer’s behalf.
- Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work, including a thorough hazard assessment identifying potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19.
- Identify a combination of measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, in line with the principals of the hierarchy of controls: elimination/substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and safe work practices.
- Consideration of protections for workers at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices.
- Establishment of a system for communicating effectively with employees in a language they understand.
- Educating and training workers on the employer’s COVID-19 policies and procedures, which includes having accessible formats and in a language they understand.
- Instructing workers who are infected or potentially infected to stay home and isolate or quarantine.
- Minimize the negative impact of quarantine and isolation on workers.
- Non-discriminatory isolation of workers who show symptoms at work.
- If not already, the indoctrination of enhanced cleaning and disinfection after people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 have been in the facility.
- Provision guidance on screening and testing.
- Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths to OSHA.
- Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
- Making a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to all eligible employees.
- Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not.
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