The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new guidance to help employers and employees identify risks of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19 at work.
Covid-19 Prevention Programs:
In the guidance, OSHA makes clear that implementing a workplace COVID-19 prevention program is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work.
The program should engage workers and their representatives in the program's development and implementation at every step, and include the following elements:
- Assignment of a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues on the employer's behalf.
- Identification of where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. This includes a thorough assessment to identify potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19 and identifying measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19. Some examples include:
- Consideration of protections for workers at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices.
- Establishment of a system for communicating effectively with workers and in a language they understand as well as education and training on COVID-19 policies and procedures.
- Instruct workers who are infected or potentially infected to stay home and isolate or quarantine to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission.
- Minimize the negative impact of quarantine and isolation on workers (such as, allowing employees to telework and providing paid sick leave).
- Isolating workers who show symptoms at work.
- Performing enhanced cleaning and disinfection after people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 have been in the facility.
- Closing areas used by the potentially infected person for enhanced cleaning.
- Providing guidance on screening and testing.
- Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- 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 available at no cost to all eligible employees and providing information and training on the benefits and safety of vaccinations.
- Other applicable OSHA Standards (all of OSHA's standards that apply to protecting workers from infection remain in place).
Details on each of these elements as well as other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can be found in the guidance.
While the guidance creates no new legal obligations and doesn't carry the same weight as a law or regulation, employers may find it helpful in identifying the risks of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and in determining appropriate control measures to implement. OSHA says it expects to continue to update the guidance over time to reflect developments in science, best practices, and standards.
Keep in mind that some states and local jurisdictions have established their own requirements for employers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Please contact your dedicated service professional with any questions.