While OSHA has not issued any new regulations, it recently issued “Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.” https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf This document provides recommendations which mirror much of what has been communicated generally to employers. Employers should review the guidance and implement whatever procedures make sense for their risk levels. The guidance outlines criteria to consider in organizing responses by “Very High,” “High,” “Medium” and “Low” risk occupations. The guidance recognizes that given increased risk exposures associated with COVID-19, employers may need to reconsider and expand personal protective equipment (PPE), including expanded respirator protection. The document also notes that Engineering Controls, including ventilation and air exchanges, may need to be increased. As always, the guidance reminds us that employers are subject to the general duty to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and provides a helpful overview of steps to take to ensure ongoing workplace safety and OSHA compliance.
OSHA has also created a COVID-19 dedicated webpage which analyzes OSHA standards that have direct application to worker exposure to the virus. The standards highlighted include Recordkeeping and Reporting, PPE, Sanitation, Bloodborne Pathogens and Hazard Communication. In addition to the standard elements that trigger recording (work related and fits one or more of the general recording criteria), OSHA indicates that a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 is required. For the healthcare industry, OSHA has also issued an enforcement directive to allow qualitative as opposed to quantitative annual fit testing of respirators, in an effort to avoid unnecessary depletion of respirator supplies. Healthcare employers must still follow a specific list of practices to be eligible for the benefit of the enforcement discretion. Finally, OSHA has generated industry-specific best practice recommendations to prevent worker exposure to COVID-19 in high-exposure industries like healthcare and airline operations.
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