OSHA Issues New Guidance on COVID-19

Murtha Cullina
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On January 29, 2021, OSHA posted new guidance intended to inform employers and workers in identifying risks of exposure to COVID-19.  The new guidance applies to industries outside of healthcare.  OSHA previously issued separate guidance applicable to healthcare and emergency response.  The guidance does not create any new legal requirements or obligations, but is advisory only.  OSHA intends for the guidance to assist employers with planning.

OSHA’s recommendations include:

  1. Assignment of a workplace coordinator responsible for COVID-19 issues.
  2. Identification of where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work.
  3. Identification of a combination of measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace based on a hierarchy of controls.
  4. Consideration of protections for workers at higher risk for severe illness.
  5. Establishment of a system for effective communications in a language that all workers understand.
  6. Education and training workers on company COVID-19 policies and practices.
  7. Instructing infected or potentially infected workers to stay home and isolate or quarantine to prevent or reduce the risk of future transmission.
  8. Minimizing the negative impact of quarantine and isolation on workers.
  9. Immediately isolating workers who display symptoms at work.
  10. Performing enhanced cleaning and disinfection after people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 have been in the facility.
  11. Providing guidance on screening and testing.
  12. Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths.
  13. Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19 related hazards.
  14. Making a COVID-19 vaccination program or informational series at no cost to all eligible employees.
  15. Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not.
  16. Consideration of other applicable OSHA Standards that apply to protecting workers from infection.

The new guidance contains additional detail in implementing OSHA’s recommendations.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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