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OSHA’s new COVID-19 protection guidance document

Key Points:

Recommendations for Industry

What OSHA’s New COVID-19 Guidance Means to You

On Friday, OSHA published a new guidance document, Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, which is intended to help employers and workers identify risks of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19 at work and determine appropriate control measures. As with all guidance, it is not regulation; rather it contains advisory recommendations focused toward employers’ “obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace,” along with descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards.

In our review of the guidance, TAG saw little that has not been included in our ongoing recommendations for business. Noting the high transmissibility of the virus by even those with no symptoms, OSHA put a strong focus on the need for face coverings and the implementation of COVID-19 prevention programs in the workplace to include conducting a hazard assessment; identifying measures to limit spread; adopting measures to separate and send home those who are infected or potentially infected; and implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns.

Some areas of the guidance that did stand out to TAG include the following elements that OSHA recommend be in a workplace COVID-19 prevention program:

  • Do not differentiate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated workers when it comes to protective measures. All should continue to wear face coverings and remain physically distant, as there is no evidence that the vaccines prevent transmission.
  • Make a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to all eligible employees. Provide information and training on the benefits and safety of vaccinations.
  • Record and report work-related COVID-19 infections and deaths as required by OSHA (in 29 CFR 1904). Employers should also report outbreaks to health departments as required and support their contact tracing efforts.

An additional area that TAG sees as critically important, but is listed as simply one of a combination of measures to help limit spread, is that of ventilation. When one reads further in the document, there is some good information on Improving Ventilation, which TAG highly recommends all businesses review and consider.

This is particularly important now – as the new variants continue to spread, it’s a great time to look at air-handling and ventilation again.

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