OSHA Issues New Stronger Workplace Guidance on COVID-19 – January 2021
On January 29, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new guidance seeking to mitigate and prevent coronavirus spread in the workplace. This guidance, “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides stronger, updated guidance and recommendation. It also outlines existing safety and health standards.
According to OSHA, essential elements include:
- Conducting a hazard assessment.
- Identifying control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
- Adopting policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers. This can encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
- Ensuring that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English- and non-English-speaking workers.
A recent article from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) says the guidance emphasizes employees’ role and rights. This includes involving them in development of their employer’s COVID-19 prevention program, and keeping them informed of the terms of the program and resources available to them, including an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19 related hazards.
One of the major differences between this guidance and prior guidance is that there’s a stronger emphasis on face coverages. Overall, OSHA uses the term “should” in their guidance, rather than mandating anything. However, the general-duty clause requires employers to protect their employees from recognized hazards, including COVID-19.
Back in December, we wrote about what a new presidential administration could mean for OSHA. This included a revamp and strengthening soon after President Biden takes office, including an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19.
If you have any questions about stronger workplace guidance on COVID-19 from OSHA, contact the Risk Management Team at Rose & Kiernan, Inc. here or by calling (800) 242-4433.