OSHA’s new coronavirus recommendations for employers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released two guidance documents designed to assist employers with COVID-19 response during the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 response procedures
Under the new guidance, OSHA advises that all employers take the following actions:
- Create an infectious disease policy
- Prepare to implement prevention measures, including proper hygiene, frequent cleaning, and disinfecting
- Create a policy to identify and isolate individuals who are sick, when appropriate
- Communicate workplace flexibilities and protections
- Implement virus controls in the workplace, such as, physical barriers or protective equipment
Masks and respirators
Typically, health care providers are subject to strict requirements under OSHA regarding filtering masks and respirators. Because of the shortage of N95 filtering respirators and the high risk posed to health care workers, OSHA’s new temporary enforcement guidance offers flexibility. Under the guidance, there are three methods health care providers may use to conserve facemask supplies:
- Provide employees with another respirator that is equal or higher quality
- Change the fit testing method for masks to a qualitative method, based on the wearer’s perception of leakage, rather than a quantitative method which uses a machine to measure leakage
- OSHA will instruct field officers to use their discretion regarding enforcement for annual fit testing requirements.
This guidance will allow health care workers greater access to filtering masks and respirators by allowing them to take measures to conserve their limited supply while abiding by OSHA requirements.
Core OSHA requirements
At this time, OSHA does not have specific standards addressing COVID-19, making all COVID-19 guidance non-enforceable at this time. However, employers should note that these recommendations are tied to core, enforceable OSHA requirements. Therefore, employers are advised to follow OSHA’s newest COVID-19 recommendations.
One of those requirements, the hazard communication standard (HCS), makes it mandatory for employers to classify and communicate chemical use risks in the workplace. This applies to COVID-19 related chemical use. This includes cleaning and disinfecting chemicals.
OSHA also makes it clear that unlike influenza and the common cold, COVID-19 is not exempted from recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Qualified employers must record COVID-19 cases on OSHA 300 log if the case is confirmed to be COVID-19; the case is work-related; and it involves one or more general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7.
Employers are advised to review those general requirements and exceptions in 29 CFR 1904.39 in order to keep in line with recordkeeping and reporting. All factors, including duties and environment should be considered for each individual case when deciding whether to record and report.
All COVID-19 policies and procedures should be specific to an employer’s unique workplace conditions. For example, employers who are located in an area that is at low risk of COVID-19 exposure will prepare differently than those in a high-risk area. Employers in the health care, death care, laboratory, airline, boarder protection, and waste management industries have been identified by OSHA as at a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and should therefore take additional precautions.
In addition to OSHA’s new guidance, employers should follow the latest recommendations from other government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in order to lessen the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
This content was provided by the McCalmon Group. The McCalmon Group, Inc. knows the workplace and the risk associated with it. They have unmatched experience in preventing loss, curtailing litigation and protecting those who interact with the workplace while at the same time increasing productivity and improving teamwork.
Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP “New OSHA Coronavirus Guidance for Employers: What You Need to Know” lexology.com (Mar. 16, 2020).
This material is provided for informational purposes only and does not provide any coverage or guarantee loss prevention. The examples in this material are provided as hypothetical and for illustration purposes only. The Hanover Insurance Company and its affiliates and subsidiaries (“The Hanover”) specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that acceptance of any recommendations contained herein will make any premises, or operation safe or in compliance with any law or regulation. By providing this information to you, The Hanover does not assume (and specifically disclaims) any duty, undertaking or responsibility to you. The decision to accept or implement any recommendation(s) or advice contained in this material must be made by you.
MAR LC 2020-163