OSHA Requires Employers to Take Steps to Provide a Safe Work Environment Amid COVID Crisis
Employers who are requiring people to come to work amid civil orders to “stay at home” need to take heed of OSHA’s emergency directives/regulations on how to maintain a safe working environment to protect people working while the virus is still spreading. Each employer in each distinct industry should seek legal advice on exactly how to apply these regulations to their unique situation. In general, OSHA is instructing companies to:
Develop an Infection Disease Preparedness Plan
If a company does not have a plan-it needs one immediately. You should take into consideration local/state/federal guidelines and directives. Generally, companies should evaluate the risk their workplace poses to spread the virus from employees, customers, vendors, the general public and work to mitigate or eliminate those risks via reduced work or offer of services, social distancing techniques, and frequent disinfecting of common and public areas.
Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures
- Promote/require frequent hand washing for all-soap and water. It is also a good idea to have alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Encourage sick workers to stay at home
- Require everyone to cover their coughs and sneezes
- Look for opportunities to implement innovative working conditions such as remote working, flexible work hours, staggered shifts, increase in physical distance between workers. Anything to reduce the number of people in direct contact with each other.
- Eliminate face to face meetings when possible. Replace them with video or phone calls
- Discourage sharing of phones, handsets, desks, etc…
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices. Clean all common areas and work areas with disinfectant.
- Install high efficiency air filters
- Increase ventilation rates in work environment
- Install physical barriers such as clear plastic sneeze guards
- Eliminate non-essential travel
- Train workers on how to best avoid work place transmission of the virus
- Train workers on use of PPE if applicable
- Provide tissues, trash cans for tissues, hand soap, disinfectants, disposable towels for cleaning surfaces
- Install hand washing reminder signs in restrooms
- Determine if your company needs Personal Protection Equipment. Employers are obligated to provide their workers with PPE needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs. The types of PPE required during a COVID-19 outbreak will be based on the risk of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 while working and job tasks that may lead to exposure in your specific workplace.
- Follow existing OSHA standards.
The Department of Labor has a publication located at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf which gives more specific guidance on this subject. Each workplace will be different. If you have questions please feel free to call Crone Law Firm at (901) 737-7740 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.