Author: Becky Canary-King
TheOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued new guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of coronavirus in the workplace. The guidance outlines best practices and recommendations for employers to identify risks of being exposed to and of contracting COVID in workplace settings. OSHA’s recommended steps to implement a COVID prevention program include:
- Assign a workplace coordinator for COVID
- Conduct a hazard assessment to identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID and eliminate or implement control measures to reduce workplace hazards
- Educate workers on COVID policies and procedures, establish a system of communicating to workers in a language they understand, and encourage two-way communication
- Instruct infected or potentially infected workers to stay home
- Perform enhanced CDC-compliant cleaning and disinfecting
- Appropriately record and report COVID-19 infections
- Make the COVID-19 vaccine available at no cost to all eligible employees. Require vaccinated employees to continue to follow protocols, as there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from person-to-person.
Like previous OSHA guidance, this is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations for employers. Rather, employers are required under the General Duty Clause to provide their workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
In an interim guidance issued late last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) confirmed that COVID-19 is a recordable illness under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements. Thus, employers are responsible for recording a case of an employee with coronavirus if:
- the case is a “confirmed” case of COVID-19
- the case is “work-related”
- the case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR § 1904.7
A confirmed case means an individual with at least one respiratory specimen that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
The definition for work-related is changed for most employers to make this determination easier. For employers of workers in the healthcare industry, emergency response organizations (e.g., emergency medical, firefighting, and law enforcement services), and correctional institutions, employees must continue to make work-relatedness determinations pursuant to 29 CFR § 1904. For all other employers, a COVID-19 case is considered work-related only if:
- There is “objective evidence” that a COVID-19 case may be work-related. For example, a number of cases developing among workers who work closely together without an alternative explanation; and
- The evidence was “reasonably available” to the employer. Reasonably available evidence includes information given to the employer by employees, and information an employer learns in the ordinary course of managing its business and employees.
This policy is intended to allow employers to focus their efforts on maintaining safe workplaces, rather than making difficult work-relatedness decisions.
There are number of considerations for managing your workplace after an employee tests positive. Levenfeld Pearlstein is available to advise through every step in the process.
Yesterday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new poster which highlights ten infection-prevention measures employers can take to reduce risk of exposure to coronavirus in the workplaces. The poster is not required to be posted in the workplace, but employers may find it a useful reminder for employees.
Safety measures listed on the poster include encouraging sick workers to stay home; providing places to wash hands; discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks and other work equipment; and regularly disinfecting surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment.
The poster is available for download in English, or Spanish.