The U.S Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has officially published "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19". This guidance was developed in collaboration with the U.S Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). The guide's focus is to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreaks with employees and customers for all businesses reopening.
While the documentation is not a standard or regulation, it does contain recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. It is intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthy workplace. To reduce the impact of outbreaks, all employers need to come up with a plan for COVID-19. Employers and workers should use this planning guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.
Along with developing an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, the OSHA is also advising employers to implement necessary infection prevention measures. For most employers, protecting workers will depend on emphasizing basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including:
- Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
- Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies.
- Discourage workers from using other workers' phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should consult information on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the use of all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method, and contact time, PPE).
The guidance is part of the DoL's ongoing efforts to educate the employers and employees on the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the guidance, OSHA recently launched a COVID-19 web page that provides information specifically geared towards the workplace. Also, the Wage and Hour Division is providing information on common issues workers and employers face when responding to COVID-19, including effects on wage and hours worked. You can also visit HHS's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information.
Federal, state, and local government agencies are the best sources for information in the event of an infectious disease outbreak. Staying informed and up to date is critical at this time. For further assistance or questions on the COVID-19 epidemic, you can visit the following websites:
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration website: www.osha.gov Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: www.cdc.gov
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website: www.cdc.gov/niosh
- United States Department of Labor: https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region/03092020
We are here to help! TimeClock Plus offers tools necessary for tracking employee leave and can have your organization up and running in as little as 48 hours. Contact us for details. In the mean time, we'll continue to monitor this fluid situation and provide the latest information on the COVID-19 pandemic, including emerging legal challenges and practical recommendations.