OSHA Issues Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing COVID-19 in Workplace

Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On January 29, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued revised guidance titled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” to help employers and workers in most workplace settings outside of healthcare identify risks of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19 at work and assist them in determining appropriate control measures to implement.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is a potentially deadly respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. As of February 15, 2021, there are approximately 108 million global cases and 2.4 million global deaths, while the United States leads the world with approximately 27.6 million cases and 485,000 deaths, according to research from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Implementing a workplace COVID-19 prevention program is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work. The most effective programs engage workers and their representatives and include the following elements:

  • Assignment of a workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 issues on the employer’s behalf.
  • Identification of where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work.
  • Identification of a combination of measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, in line with the principles of the hierarchy of controls.
  • Consideration of protections for workers at higher risk for severe illness through supportive policies and practices.
  • Establishment of a system for communicating effectively with workers and in a language they understand.
  • Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in a language they understand.
  • Instruct workers who are infected or potentially infected to stay home and isolate or quarantine to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
  • Minimize the negative impact of quarantine and isolation on workers.
  • Isolating workers who show symptoms at work.
  • Performing enhanced cleaning and disinfection after people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 have been in the facility.
  • Providing guidance on screening and testing: Follow state or local guidance and priorities for screening and viral testing in workplaces.
  • Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths.
  • Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
  • Making a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to all eligible employees.
  • Not distinguishing between workers who are vaccinated and those who are no.
  • Other applicable OSHA Standards.

“This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations,” OHSA stated in its revised COVID-19 guidance. “It contains recommendations… The 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.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that was created by the OSH Act of 1970. OSHA is dedicated to keeping the American workforce safe and healthy and helps to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information about OSHA, visit www.osha.gov.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global provider of background checks that was ranked the number one background screening firm by HRO Today in 2020 – used best practices during the Coronavirus crisis, has released a white paper about background checks in the age of Coronavirus, and has posted blogs about how COVID-19 affects employers and workers. For more information about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

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