On January 29, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) issued more effective workplace health and safety guidance for protecting workers from COVID-19 exposures. President Joe Biden ordered OSHA on January 21 to announce updated guidance within two weeks and consider founding an ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard) for workplace COVID-19 protections by March 15.
In the Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, the Assistant Secretary of Labor was asked to “identify short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement.” Also, the Order directed to “launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles.” The Order directed DOL (the federal Department of Labor) to “consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021.”
The New Workplace Safety Guidance Concerning COVID-19
The newly issued workplace safety guidance includes a recommendation to give COVID-19 vaccination at no cost to workers. Other necessary elements of a prevention plan described in the recently issued guidelines include:
- Identifying control measures to restrict the spread of the virus;
- Directing a workplace hazard assessment;
- Adopting policies for worker absences that do not punish employees so that potentially infected employees are encouraged to stay at home;
- Implementing protection from retaliation for employees who raise coronavirus-related concerns; and
- Assuring that coronavirus policy and procedures are communicated to both English- and non-English-speaking employees.
The Guidance About Returning to Workplace
Organizations need to understand how their workers can return to work safely. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance includes the following safety measures at the workplace:
- Frequently washing hands and sanitation around sneezing and coughing
- Social distancing (of at least 6 feet)
- Mask wearing
- Daily monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms
Also, OSHA provides a couple of new ideas companies should consider:
- Develop a COVID-19 prevention program
- Implement social distancing in all public work areas
- Provide masks to workers
- Continue to follow CDC guidelines
Jim Frederick, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of OSHA said in an agency statement that, “OSHA is updating its guidance to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus and improve worker protections so businesses can operate safely and employees can stay safe and working”.
It is vital to provide employees with the guidelines on COVID-19 screening and testing, make a COVID-19 vaccination available at no cost to employees, and follow state or local guidelines for screening and testing in workplaces.
To know more about the new workplace safety guidance issued by OSHA, attend the Compliance Prime webinar.