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COVID-19 Rule Update: OSHA Gathers New Data, Postpones New Standard

Posted on 4/9/2021 by Lauren Scott

OSHA announced plans to delay its new COVID-19 workplace safety standard while it gathers updated information on SARS-CoV-2. US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh made the request for up-to-date “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis and the latest information regarding the state of vaccinations and the variants,” according to a Department of Labor spokesperson on April 6.

In an Executive Order, President Joe Biden initially gave OSHA a deadline of March 15 to establish new COVID-19 workplace safety regulations. While OSHA made some progress before then, the Agency missed the initial deadline.

OSHA posted the guidance on January 26 in response to the President’s Executive Order that directed the agency to take stronger action to protect workers. The guidance encouraged employers to implement a coronavirus prevention program, which the Agency said is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus.

The Agency then expanded its COVID-19 workplace inspection program under a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) on March 12. The program expands upon its existing inspection efforts to prioritize companies with the highest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the virus.   

Existing State COVID-19 Rules

Many states already require COVID-19 safety training  and other disease prevention protocols for employees. State safety regulators in Virginia and Oregon have written permanent COVID-19 standards for employers. 

In Virginia, these rules took effect on January 27. In Oregon, a permanent standard was recently proposed and, if finalized, will take effect on May 4.

Both State rules address (at a minimum):
  • Workplace risk assessment to identify jobs that could expose employees to SARS-CoV-2.
  • Use of administrative and engineering controls to prevent transmission. 
  • Employee training, notification, and information requirements.
  • Rules for respiratory protection, face coverings, and PPE.
  • Physical distancing and hygiene requirements.
  • Employee transportation to or from work.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting the workplace.
  • When and how formerly COVID-19 positive employees can return to work. 
Safety professionals can reasonably expect that a Federal COVID-19 Standard, if one is created, will follow a similar outline.

COVID-19 Training for Employees

The new COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness online course will help satisfy Federal OSHA recommendations and state-level employee information and COVID-19 training requirements.

Employees who complete this course will be ready to:
  • Recognize signs, symptoms, and risk factors of COVID-19.
  • Describe how the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus is transmitted.
  • Use general hygiene and work practices that limit COVID-19 exposure.
  • Use and care for personal protective equipment (PPE) when required.
The course run time is one hour, and employees can complete it 100% online, at their own pace. Each employee who completes this course receives a Certificate that employers can use as part of employee training records to help satisfy OSH Act responsibilities and state-level COVID-19 training mandates.

Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, COVID-19 standard, osha, safety standard, workplace safety

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