ALEXANDRIA, VA-On Jan. 21, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19 exposure. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released stronger and clearer workplace safety guidance, the U.S. Department of Labor reported yesterday.
“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 resource, Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, is the result of that effort. The document indicates that the most effective protection is maintaining a distance from others and wearing a surgical mask or cloth face covering. In addition, employers are encouraged to implement prevention programs with workers and their unions.
The following are the essential elements of a 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
While the guidance is not a standard or a regulation, it will continue to be updated as necessary to keep pace with evolving science, best practices, and standards.