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New OSHA guidance seeks to mitigate, prevent viral spread in the work place

President Biden recently directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure. As a result, OSHA has issued stronger worker safety guidance which is aimed to help employers implement a coronavirus prevention program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction.

Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides updated guidance and recommendations, and outlines existing safety and health standards. OSHA is providing the recommendations to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace as it is their belief that implementing a coronavirus prevention program is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus.

The guidance details key measures for limiting coronavirus’s spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols, and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene, and routine cleaning.

The guidance also recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:

  • Conduct a hazard assessment.
  • Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
  • Adopt policies for employee absences that do not 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.
  • Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.

Please be advised that this guidance does not currently create new legal obligations for employers. Rather, it provides recommendations for employers based on existing mandatory safety and health standards. These recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.

Article by Christine Vizcaino