OSHA Publishes Guidance to Businesses to Prepare Their Workplace for COVID-19

by | May 7, 2020

Government officials are either lifting or planning to lift COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. To reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreak conditions on businesses, workers, customers, and the public, all employers should plan now to prepare their workplace for COVID-19. In addressing COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has published several resources to help guide employers through the pandemic. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA addresses these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (“HHS”), OSHA published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. The Guidance provides practical recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and contains information on safe work practices and appropriate personal protective equipment based on the risk level of exposure. The Guidance is intended for planning purposes. Employers and workers are encouraged to use the Guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.

The Guidance advises employers to develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan tailored to their business. Plans should consider and address the levels of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites. Plans should also consider and address other steps that employers can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to the virus in their workplace.

The Guidance also recommends that employers take the following actions:

  • prepare to implement basic infection prevention measures;
  • develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people;
  • develop, implement, and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections;
  • implement workplace controls to reduce hazards from the virus, including: (a) engineering controls such as high-efficiency air filters, increased ventilation, and plastic barriers like sneeze guards; and (b) administrative controls, such as encouraging sick workers to stay at home, minimizing contact among workers, clients, and customers, establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time;
  • eliminating non-essential travel, developing emergency communications plans, providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors, and training workers who need to use protecting clothing and equipment; and
  • consider use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gloves, gowns, face shields and goggles.

Every business and employer should take the necessary steps to prepare their workplaces to mitigate against the threat of the coronavirus, including OSHA’s recommendations.  Adhering to OSHA’s Guidance may not insulate a business from COVID-19, but it can help reduce potential exposure from COVID-19 workplace related claims, and the resulting costs, expense and disruption.    

A copy of OSHA’s Guidance is available here

In addition to the Guidance, OSHA recently launched a COVID-19 webpage that provides guidance for specific businesses and issues, such as:

We are committed to assisting our clients and will provide updates as more information becomes available. Please contact Bill Klein with any questions you may have about this subject matter.