OSHA updates “Workers Guidance” on preventing the spread of COVID-19

OSHA updates “Workers Guidance” on preventing the spread of COVID-19

During his first few days in office, President Joe Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to release updated guidance for employers to keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure. OSHA followed the request by issuing the press release “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”

According to the release, the agency is requesting “stronger safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus protection program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure.”

The updated recommendations detail multiple steps employers should take to ensure a safe workplace. Many of the recommendations are already being used by employers, though the release has a renewed focus on prevention.

OSHA lists 15 points that employer plans should include:

1. Assignment of a workplace coordinator;

2. Identification of where workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work;

3. Identification of a multiple measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace;

4. Consideration of protections for workers at higher risk for illness;

5. Establishment of a system for communicating effectively with workers;

6. Educate and train workers on COVID-19 policies using available formats and in a language they understand;

7. Instruct workers who are infected or potentially infected to stay home and quarantine;

8. Minimize the negative impact of quarantine on workers;

9. Isolating workers who show symptoms;

10. Performing enhanced cleaning and disinfection after people with suspected COVID-19 have been in the office;

11. Providing guidance on screening and testing;

12. Reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths;

13. Implement protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about hazards;

14. Making a COVID-19 vaccine available at no cost to eligible employees;

15. Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not.

At the moment, OSHA does not have specific COVID-19 regulations, though it requires employers to provide a workplace free from any hazards. OSHA’s guidance is an indication of the actions the agency believes are “feasible.”

It’s believed a number of these provisions will be part of the final OSHA regulations to be announced in March.

It’s a good idea for employers to evaluate their present compliance with these newly released guidelines.

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