OSHA Issues Stronger Guidance on COVID-19

Posted on 2/8/2021 by Lauren Scott

OSHA recently released new, more robust guidance for employers to help protect US workers from COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance recommends measures employers can implement and strategies to mitigate spread of the virus in line with the latest CDC data.

OSHA posted the guidance on January 26 in response to an Executive Order that directed the agency to take stronger action to protect workers. 

View the new OSHA guidance here.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.That includes infectious diseases like COVID-19. 

Train employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of coronavirus and help meet State employee training mandates with Lion’s COVID-19 Employee Safety Awareness online course.

Coronavirus Prevention Program for the Workplace

While the Agency’s latest guidance largely mirrors previous guidance released by OSHA, it also includes key updates based on current public health recommendations and progress on the vaccine rollout nationwide.

The guidance encourages employers to implement a coronavirus prevention program, which the agency says is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus. Although the prevention program can be modified to suit the needs of individual facilities, OSHA recommends the program include these essential elements:
  1. Conduct a hazard assessment.
  2. Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
  3. Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
  4. Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
  5. Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.
The guidance lists sixteen elements of “the most effective COVID-19 prevention programs.” 

Additional COVID-19 Safety Recommendations

The latest COVID-19 guidance also provides employers with recommendations for ventilation improvements, installing physical barriers, routine cleaning and disinfection of the workplace, and providing personal hygiene supplies. 
In addition to implementing a coronavirus prevention program, OSHA highlights several other employer  initiatives to keep workers safe, including:
  1. Provide training to all workers on the employer’s coronavirus policies and provide a method for employees to report COVID-19-related concerns anonymously, without fear of retaliation.
  2. Make COVID-19 vaccines available at no cost to all eligible employees and provide information and training on the benefits and safety of vaccines (see CDC’s “Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19 Vaccination” for additional vaccine information).
  3. In your workplace COVID-19 safety policies, treat vaccinated workers the same as those who are unvaccinated. Even after full vaccination, worker should keep social distancing, wearing face masks, and follow all other safety protocols. OSHA suggests that vaccination may not prevent transmission of COVID-19 from person to person.
  4. Issue face coverings to all workers at no cost to the employee (unless a work task requires a respirator, then provide a respirator).

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, employee safety, osha, safety, worker safety, workplace

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