Apr 19, 2020

OSHA Issues Guidance on COVID-19 Workplace Preparation

As employers across the region look forward to returning to business, it is more important than ever to assure that the facilities, offices, stores and jobsites they occupy are properly prepared for a return of employees and, eventually, customers and clients. It is no secret that however our business economy begins its march back toward normal, the specter of COVID-19 will be lurking in a very real way, still threatening public health and potentially reversing the hard fought gains our society managed to achieve against the virus over the past few painful months.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is charged with assuring healthy and safe work conditions throughout the United States. It has issued its guidance including recommendations and mandatory safety and health standards for employers to comply with as workplaces are prepared and maintained following the lifting of stay-at-home orders. Based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices, the OSHA guidance is aimed at planning for the identification of risk levels and the implementation of appropriate control measures. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires all employers to comply with OSHA and state recommendations. Compliance with OSHA directives provide employers and their employees with further assurances that appropriate protective steps are being taken in the workplace. A copy of the OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 is available here.

Among other research and reporting found in OSHA’s COVID-19 workplace guidance, employers are directed to prepare and follow an infectious disease prevention plan and implement basic infectious prevention measures for maintaining sanitation in the workplace while limiting the transfer of airborne disease through the use of rigorous cleaning, social distancing, personal protective devices and identification and isolation of sick persons and those in contact with them at work or home. The guidance outlines recommendations for physical controls in the workplace as well, including engineering controls such as filtration and physical barriers, administrative controls which manage scheduling, training and management of staff, safe work practices to employ regular sanitation and disease prevention, and personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for the job being performed by the employee and the potential hazards faced.

The guidance also categorizes risk exposure by job type, and sets forth a spectrum of “very high,” “high,” “medium” and “low risk” occupations. The physical control recommendations set forth in the paragraph above are then explained and allocated under each category of risk level. Employers are strongly encouraged to download the OSHA guidelines using the link above, consider their businesses’ risk levels, and then make certain that at a minimum they are prepared to have the recommended controls in place prior to the return of staff to physical work locations. Reviewing, budgeting and planning now will assure jobsite readiness once stay-at-home orders are lifted and the economy begins to reopen.

If questions arise regarding your business’ compliance requirements, or regarding staffing and workplace readiness issues in general, please do not hesitate to contact Bob Watson and the team of construction, business and human relations attorneys at Eastburn and Gray, PC.

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