This press release gives us new light into the Biden administration’s desire to increase regulations. This press release explains how the new administration intends to “take off the gloves” when it comes to Essential Industries exposing their employees to COVID 19. Much more inspections and much higher fines if OSHA cites you. The Trump administration had a different approach on this issue because it is almost impossible to prove when and where an employee was actually exposed to COVID 19. In other words, were they exposed at work, or were they exposed off the job. This may also create litigation cases for Worker’s Comp insurance companies. Keep in mind that if OSHA cannot find a regulation to cite a company with, they can always resort back to the General Duty Clause that simply states the employer must provide its employees with a safe and healthful workplace.
So what do you need to do?
- Perform a Hazard Assessment: Examine areas where your employees are likely to be exposed while at work. Remember it's not just when an employee might be exposed while in the field but also around the office.
- If you’re not already consider all the suggestions of the CDC. Daily temperature checks, mandatory mask requirements when employees are within 6 feet of other employees, Mandatory mask when employees are around customers/clients.
- Perform a risk analysis. Can we do our job safer? Perhaps we can reduce the employee's time in the office by adding a dropbox to leave their paperwork. Maybe we stagger the paperwork drop off and supply pick up. Maybe we utilize email, text, and zoom meetings instead of having face to face meetings. The policy is up to you: tailor it to your company’s needs with the CDC’s recommendations in mind. Keep in mind that currently there are no specific OSHA regulations but they do have many guidance documents. Read them and heed them.
- Lastly, document, train, and have your employees sign your policy. We will remind you that all the work you do is worth nothing if you do not document the policy.
U.S. Department of Labor | January 29, 2021
US Department of Labor issues stronger workplace guidance on coronavirus
New OSHA guidance seeks to mitigate, prevent viral spread in the workplace
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that it's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a coronavirus protection program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction. Last week, President Biden directed OSHA to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.
“More than 400,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and millions of people are out of work as a result of this crisis. Employers and workers can help our nation fight and overcome this deadly pandemic by committing themselves to making their workplaces as safe as possible,” said Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor M. Patricia Smith. “The recommendations in OSHA’s updated guidance will help us defeat the virus, strengthen our economy and bring an end to the staggering human and economic toll that the coronavirus has taken on our nation.”
Implementing a coronavirus protection program is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus. The guidance announced today recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:
- Conduct a hazard assessment.
- Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
- Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
- Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
- Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.
“OSHA is updating its guidance to reduce the risk of transmission of the coronavirus and improve worker protections so businesses can operate safely and employees can stay safe and working,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick.
The guidance details key measures for limiting coronavirus’s spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols, and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene, and routine cleaning.
OSHA will update today’s guidance as developments in science, best practices, and standards warrant.
This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. Learn more about OSHA.