COVID-19 cases in the United States are continuing to rise at a staggering rate. To combat this, OSHA has been helping employers safeguard their employees during the pandemic to protect them from COVID-19.
State OSHA Agencies issue New COVID-19 Rules
There there are nearly a dozen states with their own OSHA-Approved State Plans that allow the state agencies to issue their own regulations in their jurisdiction. While many states have been adhering strictly to federal guidelines, a few states have issued their own requirements for COVID-19 to control the rapid rise in case numbers.
In November, Cal/OSHA passed new temporary standards for employers to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state with the highest number of cases. Employers in California are required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program. As part of this program, employers must identify and evaluate employee exposure to coronavirus-related health hazards. In addition to providing workers with face coverings and training employees on COVID-19 information, it is also critical that effective policies and procedures (like social distancing or staggered schedules) be implemented.
The temporary COVID-19 rule recently adopted by Oregon OSHA sets forth a series of deadlines for all employers. Employers are required to identify hazards and risk factors that contribute to the potential exposure to COVID-19 by completing an exposure risk assessment. By doing so, employers can not only take steps to eliminate or minimize these risks, but can also use this assessment to determine the effectiveness of current control measures. Additionally, employers have until December 21, 2020 to compete the required Infection Control Training for all employees.
While state agencies are issuing guidance, it’s critical employers are aware of any changes in their jurisdiction and the federal OSHA guidelines.
COVID-19 Inspections: Most Frequently Cited Standards
OSHA inspections this year have primarily focused on one thing: COVID-19. Last month, OSHA released their analysis of the most common COVID-19 citations from recent inspections. Based upon those results, here are some ways workplaces can improve safety + prepare for an OSHA inspection:
- Workers should be provided a medical evaluation before using a respirator.
- Appropriate fits tests should be done to ensure proper fitting respirators.
- Assess the workplace to determine present COVID-19 hazards.
- A written respiratory program should be established, implemented, and recently updated.
- Respirators and PPE should be properly stored to ensure they are not damaged or contaminated.
- The required records of work-related fatalities, injuries, and illnesses must be kept.
OSHA also encourages employers, specifically of small and medium-sized businesses, to learn more about the agency’s On-Site Consultation Program.
Ensuring a Healthy Workplaces
Keeping all workers safe + protected is more important right now than ever before. Employers must take the necessary actions to meet their duty of providing a safe workplace free from known hazards, as is required under the Occupational Safety + Health Act. These actions may include:
- Social distancing: Keep workers, visitors, and customers at a safe distance with floor markings.
- Temperature checks: Set up stations at the entrance of your building to screen employees for fevers before entering.
- Sanitization stations: Offer multiple opportunities for everyone to wash or sanitize their hands with hand washing stations, sanitizer kiosks, or wall dispensers.
Resources for more information about Covid-19 safety in the workplace:
The CDC page
- OSHA Issues Stronger Workplace Guidance on COVID-19
- OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard + New Guidance Regarding COVID-19
- OSHA Guidance: Protecting Oil and Gas Workers During COVID-19
- Passing an OSHA Inspection During COVID-19
- 5 Ways Construction Sites Can Work Safely Amid COVID-19
- Back to Operations: Manufacturing Safety During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- Food Safety: Protecting Processing Workers from COVID-19
- OSHA’s Guidance on Reopening Non-Essential Businesses