Coronavirus has introduced new hazards into the workplace, causing OSHA to issue updated guidance and to reinforce existing workplace regulations to ensure that all workers are protected. While no one action can completely halt the spread of coronavirus, taking steps to make the workplace safer, following the established guidelines, and adopting the enhanced safety protocols required by OSHA and other health and safety agencies can help guard your employees from the danger posed by this pandemic.
Are there any OSHA regulations specific to COVID-19?
While OSHA has not issued any new regulations specifically in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the General Duty Clause allows OSHA to hold employers responsible for not doing enough to protect their employees against COVID-19. Stating that all employers have a duty under the law to maintain a safe workplace for employees, the Clause gives OSHA flexibility in holding employers accountable during this trying time.
Requiring employers to furnish “employment and a place of employment, which are free of recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm”, the General Duty Clause gives OSHA the mandate to cite all employers who are not doing their best to protect employees against exposure to coronavirus and the potential spread of the illness. OSHA guidance also recommends that employers and workers consult interim CDC guidelines specific to COVID-19 to help slow the spread of the virus and keep the workplace as safe as possible during the pandemic.
Are there any OSHA regulations regarding protecting employees from exposure?
When it comes to protecting employees from the spread of coronavirus, prevention is key. One of the best ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the is to equip employees with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). OSHA’s existing PPE standards are the most relevant regulation to halting the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
While PPE requirements can change based on the job and the anticipated exposure risk level, appropriate PPE includes gloves, and eye, face, and respiratory protection. Per OSHA regulations, all PPE must be:
- Selected and provided based upon the hazard to the worker
- Properly fitted and periodically refitted
- Consistently and properly worn when required
- Regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced as necessary
- Properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of, as applicable, to avoid contamination of self, others, or the environment.
OSHA’s guidelines for the protection of healthcare workers references the CDC guidelines, which state that those who work within 6 feet of patients or those known to have been exposed to COVID-19 must be provided with NIOSH-approved N95 filtering facepiece respirators or better to protect against the spread of the virus. With the current shortage of N95 masks, employers may also provide R/P95, N/R/P99, or N/R/P100 filtering facepiece respirators, air-purifying elastomeric respirators, powered air-purifying respirators with HEPA filters, or supplied air respirators.
Do I need to record an employee’s confirmed case of COVID-19 in my OSHA 300 log?
While the common cold or flu is generally not recordable on your OSHA 300 log, OSHA has indicated that a case of COVID-19 may be a recordable incident. However, determining whether or not the case meets the requirements can be trickier than it seems.
OSHA requires employers to record cases of coronavirus only “when a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties.” In other words, the case is only reportable if the employee has tested positive for coronavirus, if the exposure to coronavirus occurred in the workplace, and if the case meets one of the general recording criteria under the regulations, such as days away from work or medical treatment beyond first aid.
While the first and last requirements are easily quantified, the second requirement may be a little more of a gray area. With coronavirus so rampant in the general population, it can be difficult to pinpoint when and how the employee contracted the virus. Employers and OSHA should consider whether other employees have exhibited symptoms of coronavirus, if the worker was required to travel to an area with a higher rate of virus activity, or if the employee was exposed to customers or vendors who have exhibited symptoms.
Do I have to report an employee’s confirmed case of COVID-19 to OSHA?
Employers must report confirmed cases of coronavirus to OSHA if the case is “work-related” and if the employee is hospitalized or dies because of coronavirus. Hospitalizations should be reported to OSHA within 24 hours and death must be reported within 8 hours. There are some exceptions to this rule. If the death occurs more than 30 days after work-related exposure or the hospitalization occurs more than 24 hours after workplace exposure, then the employer is not required to report the case to OSHA.
Working together to create safety solutions
Sheakley knows that keeping your workforce safe is your top priority and that the coronavirus pandemic is making that more difficult than ever. That’s why we’re here to help ensure that you’re up to date on all new OSHA guidelines to help protect your employees from exposure.
Sheakley can also help you develop better policies and provide assistance with implementing safety programs that help you achieve your safety goals. Sheakley’s Workforce Management Services experts provide complete safety resources for your company.
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