OSHA rethinks coronavirus mitigation and prevention guidance

Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration; CP staff

As employers approach one year of pandemic response measures, OSHA’s just-issued “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of Covid-19 in the Workplace” provides updated recommendations plus reminders of existing safety and health standards. Among essential prevention program elements, the guidance recommends that employers: 

• Conduct a hazard assessment;

• Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home;

• Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers; and,

• Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.

“Protecting Workers” details measures for limiting virus spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected individuals are not in the workplace; implementing and following physical distancing protocols; and, using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides insight on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning. The guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.  

“Employers and workers can help our nation fight and overcome this deadly pandemic by committing to making their workplaces as safe as possible,” says Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor M. Patricia Smith. “The recommendations in OSHA’s updated guidance will help us defeat the virus, strengthen our economy and bring an end to the staggering human and economic toll that the coronavirus has taken on our nation.”

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